Thursday, December 29, 2005

MTTs hate me

Warning: The following is a bad beat story. Things are going well the last two weeks for this blogger despite his horrible luck in MTTs. If you want to skip this message and call the following blogger a whiny little pissant, it's justified and he won't hate you for it.

FOURTH HAND in a $5.50 SnG on Pokeroom.
I'm dealt Q,Q in MP, action was folded to me, I raise to $100.
Two callers.
Flop comes J,4,4.
I bet $300, about a fourth of my early stack, hoping to take the nice pot down right there.
Guy to my left pushes all in, other guy folds.
I don't put him on the four. I realize this is a $5 SnG tournament, and it's Donkeyland, but I still don't put him on a 4. If he had Quad 4s, then nice hand, sir.
I'm right. He turns over J,Q.
I have him totally dominated. He only has two outs, a J, left in the deck to help him. I'm over 95 percent to win.
The turn?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The greatest tournament I ever played

400 entrants.
A nice prize at the end.
Mom and the fam rooting for me on a vacation to KC.
The baby all happy and ready for bed.
A cold beer by my side.
Full from dinner, bladder empty.
A pre-apology from me to Mom and her new husband and my wife that it might take three hours, but I finally have time for a fun MTT because I'm on vacation.
I register.
I'm excited.
First hand, I have a flush draw.
The third spade falls.
Sweet, a good start.
The guy pushes me all in.
He has two pair.
He gets his full house on the river.
I'm done.

Monday, December 26, 2005

One of us, One of us.....

So I was in a SnG, three people left, a timid yet wild player (the worst kind) third, me first and the Enemy second. I've donked off good chip lead after I gambled with 5,5 and won on an all-in play.
I knew, at least, if I just waited out the third player, I'd be in the money (these are shorthanded), then go to town on the other guy and try to take this thing.
This was after another SnG when I had J,J and went against 3,3 (huh?) and the guy sucked out his 3 on the river, so I was a little steamed, and yet, I played patiently and well.
I have A,8 and it's a short table, so I raise, and Enemy calls. That doesn't worry me too much. This guy was aggressive, aggressive, aggressive all day.
J,8,6 rainbow comes down, and I bet fairly hard, about 3/4ths of the pot. The guy goes all in.
I call.
He flips over J,6.
I'm out.
Wow. I played exactly like him.
That's the problem.
Donkeys are contagious. They have a disease called donkey-itis, and it causes you to make wild, even stupid, moves. It causes you to play exactly like them. It causes you to play like a donkey.
It's reassuring to look at those hand histories and see that, yes, the guy called you down with third pair, or he didn't have anything, or even when he had top pair with low kicker and currently is whining about online poker being rigged.
But it's also dangerous.
Everytime I see that, I find myself relaxing too much. "He won't have anything the next time I bet hard, so I can just bet hard on anything, and I'll beat him," my brain tells me.
Players like that, in fact, are harder to read. Last night I played with two donkeys and two real players, and the solid players were much easier to play with. Every time they raised, unless I had a monster, I folded. I knew they had it. Sure enough, every time, they did.
(You could debate and say that they, too, were donkeys in a way, since you can't be that predictable either, and I would agree, but for the online world, at .25, I call them solid players. At least they understand the game).
I called one donkey's all-in when I had J,J and 10,8,3 came down, thinking that I had raised and he probably had 10 with a good kicker. Sure enough, thank you, $15 profit.
But that move has bitten me many times before, when a donkey makes a big bet and I'm calling, already counting my chips, only to watch them get snatched away by his trips.
In fact, I suffered a bad losing streak a couple weeks ago, and most of the hands played out like this.
Over and over, Harrington and Sklansky tell you to play the opposite of the people at the table.
Play solid, and you will win, at .25 NL
You don't have to join their stable.
It makes sense to me.
Why doesn't it make sense to my brain?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Learning how to lose

If you want to play poker reguarly, make it more than a weekly game with friends, and actually hope to make money consistently, you don't need to learn how to win.
You need to learn how to lose.
That's not exactly true, of course. You must learn how to play, and the masters will help you with that. Harrington, Sklansky, Brunson, Gordon, Greenstein, etc., will help you develop the fundamentals and skills you need to play the ring games and tournaments well, especially how to beat all the donkeys online.
But in order to not only win consistently but enjoy the game, you've got to learn to lose.
That's what I need to learn.
Three weeks ago, I went through the worst losing streak of my short time playing poker, dropping more than $100 and taking bad beat after bad beat (and also making stupid decisions on a few others). The experience was gut-wrenching, nerve-wracking, and I even lost sleep over it.
It was only a week, and in the scheme of things, it wasn't a big deal, since I was far ahead. In fact, the stock market corrects itself all the time, and that's really what this is, a correction of a good, but not great, poker player's bankroll. I wasn't going to dominate all the time.
And yet, when I won, I almost expected it, like, "well, I was getting good cards, so of course I won." As I was losing, I would replay the hands over and over, and every time, I came to one conclusion: You suck.
Last week, I made a comeback, only to lose most of it near the end of the week, shaking my confidence even more.
So, this week, another correction, only in a good sense. I'm winning a lot. I'm getting great hands, and I'm getting great action on those hands (and you have to be lucky on both counts in that regard).
And yet, instead of rushing to the computer every night, as you might think I am, I'm hestiating to play.
I don't want the good feeling to go away.
I'm afraid to lose.
I won $15 in a SnG last night and won $30 in rings, and yet, and the end of the night, I played another site and lost $5.
That's what I'm thinking about today.
If you are afraid to lose in poker, you don't win. That's the way it goes. You can play hands well and lose. You can play hands perfectly and lose. You can play a hand horribly and win. That's poker and that's life.
Maybe, eventually, I'll figure that out.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Clearing points can clear your bankroll

As I wait, ever-so-slowly, for more trip reports to creep in from all the Las Vegas bloggers (get on it, Poker Geek and Change 100), a thought occured to me.
It's taking longer to clear my points at Hollywood Poker than it is for all these bloggers to turn in reports.
I have a Mac, so I am not as much of a bonus whore as the lot of you, but I'm still taking advantage of promotions when they come.
The problem is, I do not have a huge bankroll. There are three reasons for this:
1) I have a 6-month-old, and babies eat money more than they eat formula (which, by the way, costs $25 a can).
2) I am a reporter, and reporters make about $1.25 an hour.
3) I am not Phil Ivey. I am not even Phil Ivey's brother. I like fish, and can eat fish like the rest of you all, sometimes by the finfull and sometimes all night, and yet, at times, I find the old adage You Are What You Eat is so very, very true.
So, I play .25. I do well there. Pretty darn well, in fact, if I do say so myself. Well enough to think about buying a new computer with the money after a few more months.
But playing .25 doesn't help you clear your bonus quickly. And that encourages me to stay on.
And the best way to lose money is to play beyond your streak.
The last couple of nights, I've swallowed huge pots early. Now, when you do that, you expend a certain amount of energy in taking the chance, analyzing the situation and then feeling the elation after you collect your money.
In fact, it takes much more energy to play a big pot once than to play conservative, card-dead poker for an hour-and-a-half.
But, when I win a couple big pots early, normallly I'd jump off, pat myself on the back and call it a night.
Now I'm pressured to keep playing to get the points, and whether I know it or not, I don't have the mental energy for it after a few big pots.
Ring games are by far the hardest game for me, even though they are usually full of donating donkeys. When you've only got a certain amount of money to spend on poker, you know that one mistake can cost you. In a tournament, I'm (usually) able to recover from a lost pot, and if I can't, well, I've only spent $5-$20 for an hour or two of poker, right?
During last week's painful, soul-crushing losing streak, I, in fact, was up several times, but I ignored the voice in my head, the "stop now, you've done enough" voice, because the other voice said, "Well, you only need 40 more points for your $25!."
This week, during my winning streak, I have quit while I was far ahead.
So far, it's worked.
I wonder, in fact, if the difference between winning and losing streaks is just knowing when to quit.
Bonuses, after all, are no good if you don't have a bankroll to put it in.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bless you, Poker Gods

OK, OK, Poker Gods, after making me your Job, you have rewarded me with riches. Thank you for flopping me two straights and giving me a table full of donkeys who thought they could bluff me off with a pair of sixes after one measly check from me BOTH times. Thank you for challenging me with four suckouts on an SnG and yet allowing me to win the second one. Thank you for giving me trip aces. Thank you for actually allowing me to win with a pocket two pair for once.
I know now you were just making me a much better player. I can feel it. I will be more cautious now of three suits on one board, of paired boards, of straight draws, no matter what I have in my hand. I know now two pair is not a monster hand, nor should it be treated as such.
Thank you Poker Gods. No need for another massive, painful streak ever again. I am humble, now, Poker Gods. You won't find me bragging about my good fortune ever again.
Bless you. I will say five statements from the Theory of Poker in your honor tonight.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I'm Sorry, so Sorry

Dear Poker Gods:

OK, I deserve to be punished for my braggy, I-have-all-the-luck-in-the-world post. Boy, was that arrogant of me. Yep, Arrogant. What can I say? I was feeling good, that kind of feeling in poker you rarely get, when all your small pockets turn into sets, when all your draws land ever-so-softly on the runway, when all your two pairs turn into full houses.
You're right. I deserved to have my nut flush with A,K lose to four of a kind. I deserved to have my top two pair with K,Q lose to a guy and his set of puny little 2s. I truly deserved to have my A,A cracked by K,9. Of course I do. I definitely deserved to have my A,K lose to A,2, or my A,Q lose to A,7, or my A,K lose to 3,3 when he gets the river on the FUCKING flop. Yep, I deserve it all, Poker Gods. I truly do. Or when I bet hard on top pair against a donkey and he catches his 7 on the river for two pair. I do deserve it all, Gods. I really do. Even when you give me hands, like trips in small pairs, they are ruined by draws or flushes, meaning I have to bet them hard and get minimal payment.
But here's the thing. We're done now. I bragged a little bit, Poker Gods. After five hours of grinding at the .25 cent tables, Poker Gods, surrounded by so many fish, you're starting to think you're Nemo, just waiting, oh Gods, waiting for a hand to get them with, knowing that if you are paitent enough, five hours of paitent, you'll get them.
And just as you are signing off, you get 10,8,K, rainbow, and you have 10,8. It's not a strong hand against an experienced player, but you know this guy will call you with anything.
And you bet hard, the guy calls.
And the 7 falls.
You know you're fucked, especially when the guys pushes in all his chips, $8 left, all your money, by the way, from those earlier races, but you have to call, not believing that this week could end like this.
It can.
That's just cruel, Poker Gods. Now I'm beginning to think, in fact, you are not God. You are Satan. You must be. No God, at least not my God, would torture me like this. There's punishment, and then there's just hanging me over the fire and watching me writhe in agony as you laugh, laugh, laugh.I played my grindy ass off four five hours, and you fucking give the donkey a 7?
Fuck you, Poker Gods. Fuck you. Fuck all your tortue and punishment and stringing me along so you can get your kicks on Route 66.
You owe me a winning streak this week, Gods. Sorry, but you do. One major suckout a night. Draws that hit. Trips. And all of it should be called by donkeys with large stacks.
Oh yes.
And no bragging when it happens.
I promise.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Never tempt the poker gods by bragging about your bounty. I am now $60 down over the last two days at Hollywood. I won't go through the sad, long list of bad beats, but the worst was getting the nut flush with A,K and losing to a guy who had 7,7 with two 7s on the board. Yeah. Lost $25 on that one.
Please, forgive me, poker Gods! I'll sacrifice my big blind! I'm playing tight! I'll respect the button! I'll bow to anyone's aces.
Please, please, please, poker gods, I'm sorry.

Friday, December 02, 2005

On a rush

I am that person you hate.
The suckout King.
I've been on quite a rush the last couple of days, the kind of rush where you are a genius all the time for going all in with 10,10 because even though the guy turns over Q,Q you will win, and sure enough, you spike the 10 on the river for a $50 pot.
It's the kind of run when you can't get knocked out of a SnG, even though you go all in with 3,3 and the guy has K,K because you get the straight.
It's also the kind of rush when you have 3,3, sneak in cheaply, and you get 10,10,3 on the flop, and you raise, and you get not only one but two callers, and they both call your all in.
This is what makes poker so addictive. You scrape and scratch all year for runs like these, when you can do no wrong, even when you do wrong.
And the best thing? This follows a two-week struggle of missed flushes, frozen flops, horrible rivers and bad suckouts on your own. You were down, way down at Hollywood trying to clear a bonus, and the only thing that helped you was your old standbys, the SnGs.
I hope this lasts tommorow, Saturday. I love the confidence I feel right now, the action, the hands coming my way.
The trick is to keep the confidence but forget about these last couple of nights. They don't happen all the time. They don't even happen most of the time.
But when they do, well, that's why we play poker.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Letting the ones you let go go

I folded 3,4 and 10,4.
And I've been kicking myself all weekend for it.
In the first case, I played five hours of nickel, dime with some friends. I came out a winner, and yet, all I could think about was the pot that escaped me.
I had 3,4 and the flop came 2,3,4. I check-raised in the hopes that the two callers would have the straight just yet. I got raised back. The other guy insta-called. Shit.
I knew they had a straight, probably both, even though both were inexperienced players and would call with a pair at that point.
So I thought about it and folded.
And a 4 came down.
Had I given it some thought, I would have realized that I had six outs, giving me roughly 25 percent to make my hand, and the pot odds were still great, with $1 to call a pot of $7. But I didn't and I folded because I was spooked.
I would have taken down at least $25, I'm sure, with that hand.

In the second, I was on Pokerroom late at night, jumping around, when I was dealt 10,4 with the first hand. The guy raised .25 cents and I folded despite already posting my blind. Again, pot odds dictated that I call, but I didn't, and a full house came down for me. The guy went all in, and I would have taken down $75.

I believe it's harder for me to let these go than the bad beats. In fact, I lost $20 on another hand because I suffering from tilts far worse than a bad beat tilt.

You think too much about the money you could have had. It's dangerous, of course, to think that way because it encourages far too much fishing in the future.
But I can't let it go right now. Hands like that are old lovers, when we only think about what could have been, and the fact that most of the time things really suck. Like with 10,3.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

It takes time to get better

Well, after a successful start to playing poker rings at for money, I took my first hard hit last night.
I lost $20 on a single hand.
I know, I know, boo-hoo, but that's a lot of money for me.
Yes, I'm a grinder who plays low limit. The sad thing is, I should have finished ahead.
I had pocket aces, re-raised and then when the flop came down, bet hard. The guy put me all-in, and without a pause, I called.
He had flopped his set with his pocket nines.
Bad beat? Sort of. But I don't want to just dismiss it as that. It was part of a disturbing pattern.
I figured because lately I had read all these books and really started to pay attention to the TV shows and read the Internet stuff, I should be able to dominate the players at .25 cent and at play money.
In fact, for the past few weeks, my play money bankroll has stayed the same after winning at least $50,000 a week. I've really improved so much - I used to consider $500 a good day when I started playing seriously back in April - that I figured the improvement should continue at that rate.
In doing so, instead of playing aggressive, I've played reckless. I discovered this the other day, after another day of losses in play money, and I finally realized that I was assuming all these players were far inferior to me and must be idiots. That's an incredibly dangerous assumption to make in poker. Hell, even the bad players get hands every once in a while.
Instead, I finally settled down and started winning again in play money.
When I started playing real money in rings (I had been playing SnGs for some time), I of course was nervous and cautious.
And I won $75 last week. I would up being more than $100 up with the tournaments.
That, of course, made me realize that I was better than the players and shouldn't take them seriously.
So, just like before in play money, I called the all-in without thinking that something was up, that maybe the guy flopped two pair or a set (no draws were possible) and just blindly called, waiting for my pot to come to me.
Well, play money can, in fact, teach us a few things. Mostly it's taught me that playing aggressive is fine, but you still need to wait for good hands to win. You're not at the stage of development where you can consistently push people off pots and bluff big. Hell, most players, even the pros, need good hands to win, unless they're playing a bunch of mes, and what I've realized is it's not like I"m a pro and playing a bunch of idiots. There are good players in .25 cent no limit. You just have to avoid them. :)
So...the game plan is people are betting hard, and you only have a pair, the guy probably has a better hand. Play smart, solid poker, bluff a few small pots, bet when you have a hand, and don't get reckless. You will lose, but the point is to limit your losses and take the big pots when they come.
We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Home game hell

Once you really start to study the game of poker, you tend to play better against better players.
But you also play poorly against bad ones.
I played a home game Friday with some friends, thinking with all my new poker knowledge, I was going to clean up.
Um, no.
Now, I ran into some historically bad beats - jack-high flushes getting stomped by ace-high flushes (with a Q on the board, and with only three suits out there), straights getting beat by flushes (again, with only three out there), full houses getting beat by higher full houses, etc.
But I was the big loser of the night.
Why did I face all those bad beats? People don't know when they are supposed to fold. No, you aren't supposed to keep betting on your flush draw if I bet huge on my straight. No, you aren't supposed to stay with your two pair in the hopes you will draw a full house if I bet huge on my full house. And no, you aren't supposed to hope you hit your inside straight.
Raises? Sure, let's call with 10,5!!!
They also beat me with good hands, too, meaning it was impossible to put them on a hand. Maybe I really was playing with a bunch of Gus Hansons and I just didn't know it.
To prove it, I played on Pokerroom on Saturday night for money and totally cleaned up because they were acting more like players should play. If they raised, I could usually put them on a good hand.
Home games are fun, but they are frustrating as well.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A is for Arrrrrrrggggghhhhhhh

A recent hour session at

K,K - raise 3xs, someone goes all in, I call.
A flops on the river.

K,K - raise 3xs, someone goes all in, I call.
A flops on the turn

K,K - barely raise at all, someone goes all in, I call
A flops on the river.

Q,Q - raise 3xs, someone goes all in, I call.
A flops on the turn. BUT a Q flops on the river.
OK, so one out of 4 is pretty bad.

Thank GOD this was play money, even if I was playing at the highest tables.

Why is it that every time I need an A lately I don't get one, but when I don't need one, it appears like a little elf? No, I'm not whining, and I know you aren't guarenteed a win just because you have pocket pairs, but really, who goes all in with any of those hands? Even A,J is marginal, and they get rewarded for it because of the stupid A.
I hate aces.

Monday, October 24, 2005

How do you play bad players?

OK, so this guy is on an obvious flush draw in a $5 sit n go shorthanded at, and I've got A,Q with a big, fat A on the board. He needs one more spade. He doesn't deserve the spade, so I make him pay for it. I bet the pot, about $275. He calls.
A junk card falls. He still doesn't deserve the spade, so I make him pay yet again. I bet $500.
Now, his odds aren't great here, 2 to 1 at the most, so he'll surely fold here, right?
He calls.
And the third spade falls.
When he checks, I check, knowing I've been beaten, and he shows the King high spade. Oh, and he had K,3. Did I mention I raised the pot 4xs when I began the hand? I guess I didn't mention that.
Of course I"m on tilt, but I recover and try to make a move when the guys just to my left raises my blind AGAIN, so I re-raise him with 10,6.
On a medium stack, he calls with K,3.
Two threes flop, a 10 falls so I bet hard, and he calls.
End of game.
You know, I've found more and more that you have to either be bad and play ultra-conservative, or you have to play extremely well, better than me, I guess, to beat all these donkeys. The stragety of "just hang around until they knock each other out" works, except that it leaves you with a pretty short stack at the end, and that, my friends, not only sucks but just isn't much fun.
You really just have no idea what these people have. And while that is good for you, in a way, it also makes it pretty tough out there.
Maybe I should play some $1 sngs at pokerroom over Halloween weekend and let the party start!!!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

When women play poker, it isn't a cat fight

I always hesitate to write the stories like I did today in the Outdoors section of the Tribune.
I call these the Look! FILL IN THE BLANK can FILL IN THE BLANK stories.
As in, "Look! Men can shop for clothes too!" (A whole reality show was built around this, and you know the name. Hint: It rhymes).
My story was, "Look! Women can do outdoor activites too!"
Now, I tried my best to show the struggles women face in getting involved in the outdoors, struggles that have nothing to do with the fact that they don't like to get their nails dirty or other nonsense like that.
If those stories are done well, they can, indeed, be great ones, like "Murderball," the movie about wheelchair rugby. Other times, by playing up a person who has beaten the sterotypes, they actually play up the stereotype and give them even more validity.
One reason I'm writing this is last night I watched the World Poker Tour and its repeat performance of Ladies Night.
As I was falling in love with the winner, a French Canadian (ha ha, honey, not really...hmmmm), I was enjoying the good poker being played, and I forgot they were all women (except for the French one) and just respected them as poker players.
One of the announcers, however, Vince Van Patten, who reminds me of a cross between a fraternity president, a 40-year-old with a mid-life crisis, and a pack mule (or another word for it), made it hard to forget there were women out there.
"Ooooo, we've got a catfight out here!"
"Oooo, what a play, hairspray right between the eyes."
I don't need to go on, do I?
The show tried so hard to present women as real poker players, even interviewing many of the pioneers, and yet, by offering a pittance of a payout ($25,000 went to the winner, while first place usually approaches $650,000 or more) and by allowing Van Patten to go off, it played up to the stereotypes more than shattered them.
Episode III premieres Saturday. Let's try harder this time.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Ain't nothing like the real thing

I played my first live game since my son was born June 25, and it made me realize how much I missed it. I love Internet poker, but playing with friends, reading players and seeing the real cards come down is a blast.
I learned a few things too:
• No, poker Web sites are not rigged for action. I was playing heads-up with a friend after I busted everyone else out, and took the following two bad beats in a row:
Had 10,3 os. Flop 10,3,2. Bet hard the whole way. 6 on the turn. Friend keeps calling. Q comes on the river, He bets hard.
He shows Q,6.

Had A,9 suited. Flopped an A. Bet hard. 9 falls. Bet even harder. 10 on the river.
He shows A,10.

Now, fairly rough anyway, but heads up? Ouch.
I eventually won my money back when I had A,A and he had a flush draw and gambled. The lesson here is bad beats happen all the time, in life as in the Internet. Deal with it.
• It's good to practice a good poker face, even when you are playing online. My friend said he couldn't pick up a tell from me, and he's played with me for months and could "read' me in the past. Sweet.
Or maybe I'm just tired from the baby.
• Real poker can make you better, or it can make you worse. You tend to call everything in a tiny ring game, making it much more difficult to read players and also you tend to just play cards instead of call crap. While this can sharpen your reading skills and make you look for tells more, it can also make you softer.
I need to get out to the bars and play some tournament poker.

I'm also reading lots of books right now. Sklansky, Harrington, etc. They are really helping.

My name

I need to explain my name, I think, lest you think I'm a pervert. I climb mountains. I've just climbed all 54 14ers in Colorado, which is a pretty big deal, if you live in Colorado (if you live anywhere else, you probably don't give a shit). And my friends call playing poker "poking." I'm not sure why.
So...I'm not a pervert.
That is all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Am I the only one who enjoys play money?

OK, I am not rich, I have a newborn, and I'm still trying to learn how to play at an advanced level, so despite winning or cashing many $5 + .50 SnG shorthandeds, I have to take a month off so I can put another $25 in next month.
In the meantime, I'm working on building my play money bankroll on
So am I just lame for playing play money and taking it seriously, or as seriously as I can? The only difference between my play is I call more all-ins, and with weaker hands, than I would in a real-money tournament.
I believe, for the most part, play money play is fairly strong, especially at the highest level table, where I play. But here are some questions:
• Does playing for play money actually hurt your game, given that others may not take it seriously and are willing to call huge bets with much weaker hands?
• Are there almost as many idiots playing for low level real money than there are people playing for playing at the highest tables? (I would say yes to this question, but I'm curious what others say).
• Can you learn playing play money, and what can you learn? You can't learn how to bluff, for instance, because most people won't fold with play money. And you can't learn how to bet someone off, for the same problem. But aren't these problems with inexperienced players and not necessarily play money? I seem to have the same problems in my weekly ring game with friends of all different levels.
Anyway, regardless of what people say, I love my play money bankroll and I'm looking forward to the day I hit $1 million. I'm at $750,000 right now and have been a member since late April. And see you at the suckouts.