Wednesday, September 27, 2006

How much is it?

I've never said that at an online poker table, but I probably would, if the amount wasn't placed next to the call button.
After messing around on Party Poker for a bit, or just enough to collect my Poker Source Online bonus, I've started working on a bonus from Full Tilt.
Now I hated Party Poker, as I've said before.
But I love Full Tilt.
Right away I could tell the games would be more challenging when a guy re-raised me with 9,9, pushing me off my JJ, in a cash game. I play $50 NL cash games, and for the most part, on the Mac Web sites, Hollywood Poker and Pokerroom (I know I should link these but nah), if a guy re-raises you, you can count on KK or AA.
You could argue that his play was a donkey move. I prefer to think of it as a good, aggressive way to make money from a pocket pair that is difficult to play post-flop. Had I re-raised him I'm sure he would have folded. Had I called I'm sure he would have played it cautiously. I folded because of what I've faced in the past.
Now I'll have to re-adjust my game.
And the biggest re-adjustment, I'm ashamed to admit, will be paying more attention to a player's image.
Through my two-tabling, chatting with or bugging other bloggers (hi, drizz!) and watching poker on TV, I have devoted maybe 25 percent of my attention to each table I play.
Unfortunately, or perhaps extremely fortunately, I've still managed to book solid winning sessions most of the time, or at least enough to show a decent profit every month.
I do this, of course, by playing tight, aggressive, ABC poker.
I may be wrong, but it seems to me that won't work on Full Tilt.
A guy to my left raised me continually throughout the night my first time on, pushing me off marginal hands that normally would take down pots on the other sites. I was down $15, mostly because I folded to his aggressively play. When I got A,J, I called yet another raise from him, about 4x the BB, his standard.
Now I never usually call with A,J in a cash game. There's no reason to, in my mind.
But this time I called. I even thought about re-raising, but I wasn't prepared to go to town with it. Yet.
When a J-high flop hit, with two diamonds, I bet about half the pot, and he re-raised me. I knew he would, and I decided right then and there that my TPTK, a hand I would normally toss to a re-raise, was good.
I raised him back. When he pushed (he had me covered by at least $75), I called.
He had a diamond draw and did not hit his flush. I won a $75 pot and wound up finishing up $20 for the night.
I paid attention and it paid off.
Last night, my second time on Full Tilt, twice I folded A,J with a J-high flop after he re-raised after my re-raise. I'm pretty sure I was beat there but I wouldn't know for sure.
I was watching ESPN.
There are still bad players on Full Tilt, some of them really bad. Last night I took $30 off a guy who played Q,4 os against my AA.
But it takes some attention to recognize them.
So I"ll still chat, as I enjoy that, and maintaining those relationships with the poker folk is definitely beneficial to my game.
But no more TV. Maybe, for now, no more two tabling.
And the Professional Poker Tour will have to accept 25 percent of my attention.
The rest I'm turning to the table.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Let's ban fantasy football too then

Five reasons why fantasy football and online poker are the same:

• I don't have to go to some bash on some boat to play it, even though I really, really, really, really, really want to but my budget won't allow it (that and my wife and possibly the 1-year-old would have looked like Linda Blair pre-Exorcist had I asked her after being gone so much this summer climbing).

• They take more luck than we want to admit, especially us "educated" players who hate, say, the guy who takes, say, Drew Brees in the first round and crushes your team with Terrell Owens and Steve Smith and Shaun Alexander as receivers (strictly a hypothetical, that's not me). Does this sound familiar with a guy holding A,5 against your A,K?

• It's really, really fun when it's going well and really, really crappy, almost tedious, when it's not.

• I say Who-hoo! when I'm doing well, as I did Sunday, when my team scored 91 points.

• It's a little geeky, but in a hip sort of way.

Bonus reason: Both go better with beer.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Fall is here, and that's really cool

Now that I’ve accepted the end to the summer climbing season, I had a wonderful run Sunday morning.
It was the perfect morning, the kind of morning you only get in the fall.
Climbing in September can be as addictive as crack to mountaineers. The changing leaves are a reason, but mostly it’s because of the weather.
Fall arrived this weekend, and it’s already creating some welcome weather.
The weather was bad this fall, but when it’s good, it’s realllllly good. It’s usually clear and cold, but not too cold.
I planned to go about eight miles Sunday as training for a half marathon I plan to run at Boyd Lake in November. I started out in my running tights (not exactly flattering but wonderful for those cold runs) and a warm top, and my hands were biting at me when I started with my running partner.
We ran down from Northridge to the Poudre Trail, down past the trail, up 83rd Avenue and to 20th and back to Northridge.
As the run progressed, the day slowly got warmer, as if it was camped under a small, blue, gas flame. By the end, I was sweaty and almost hot, but just in time for the run to be over.
The mountains to the west looked gorgeous, with deep, white snow coating their tops. The clear, cold weather gave us a good view, something you just don’t see in the summer, when smog and ozone gets clogged in the warm air, obscuring their view.
Once you accept the fact that fall is here, it doesn’t take long to really enjoy it.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Goodnight season

This is dedicated to “Goodnight Moon,” one of 1-year-old Jayden’s favorite books.

Goodnight, climbing season.
Goodnight snow.
Goodnight weather that makes the wind blow.
Goodnight frustration.
Goodnight forecasts.
Goodnight summer, which really didn’t last.
Goodnight granola bars.
Goodnight sunlight.
Hello time with the little guy day and night.
Goodnight equipment, stashed out of sight.
Goodnight ruined plans - I’ve got no more fight.
Hello long runs so I’ll be ready.
For some snowshoeing and skiing come January.

P.S. Hello poker, time to play
So my aces can get cracked another day

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Worst. Champion. Ever.

Jamie, Jamie, Jamie.
Poker really doesn't need this. Poker is more popular than ever, but it's still kind of a sleazy game, so it still needs all the good publicity it can get. They're trying to ban what made it so popular, after all.
And so who do we have currently representing our game in prime time all over sport's biggest station?
No, unfortunately, it's not Allen Cunningham.
We've got Jamie Gold.

You could sort of excuse the flap with his promise to split half his winnings. Yeah, it's kind of sleazy, but it was bound to happen one of these days, with every player who didn't make it in through an Internet tournament or satelite backed by someone. And you could sort of excuse the fact that he's a geeky, shallow, smarmy person. This year's tournament was loaded with them, the result of too many Internet players in Mom's basement apartment. Heck, at least Eric Molina didn't win (I bothered to look up his name this time).

But the guy is SUCH a douchebag. So many times on ESPN yesterday I hid my head in a pillow. All that talking, telling players what he has and then pretending he was sorry to knock out another player.
"I said top top," he said to one player. "I'm sorry."
"I told him what I had," he said later.

These are exactly the kind of players I hate, in my poker game and my softball game. I'll slide cleats first into them without a second thought.
Gold has to be poker's most embarassing main event champion since Robert Varkonyi.
And I hesitate to say this because at the least, Varkonyi is good family man, a humble, nice guy who got Phil Hellmuth's head shaved. How can you not like him? He said at the main event this year they had a baby, and last year he stood by and supported his wife all the way to her cash in the tournament. I'd leave my 1-year-old with Varkonyi for babysitting.
I'd walk through fire to snatch him from Gold's arms.

My finger was in my throat the whole time they were doing the Gold story about his father. The soft piano music. The close-ups of Gold's sincere face. The tears.
Yes, it's a sad story, but I just don't buy that all of Gold's money is going to his Dad. Why fight to keep half his winnings then? His father may be dead before that money is released.

I suppose we've gotten lucky in the past. Joe Hachem and Greg Raymer were great champions. Even Moneymaker did a lot for the game by promoting the idea that anyone could win. He's embarassing himself now in those commercials, but they paid him a lot of money, I'm sure, so who can blame him for doing them?
Gold just makes me shake my head, a guy who thinks he's a great player and doesn't realize that he hit the run of his life.
Here's to seeing him get knocked out next year.

• • •

I haven't written much about football, even though I love it, because I'm a Chiefs fan, and I went to the University of Kansas. We're not talking powerhouses here. The Chiefs put on an inspiring 9-6 overtime loss Sunday.
So, yes, I love football, but I'll just keep quiet about it for now.
My fantasy team is pretty good. I've finished first in my league twice, second once and fourth once in six years.
I just made a brilliant roster move. I picked up a kicker to cover for Vinateri in case he can't kick (and how hurt, really , do you have to be to not kick a football). Except he's on his bye weeks.

• • •
Now that my new MacBook runs Windows, I'll slowly work through Poker Source Online bonuses and then stick with the ones I like. So far Party Poker isn't going to make the cut, and that has nothing to do with the fact that I lost huge pots last night with A,Q and A,A against 10,9 and 3,4 when both hands flopped trips. And no I didn't slow play them. And you have to come to my house to collect your $1.
I just don't like the software, the poor customer service and all the bugs. But I do like the PSO bonus and free money.
I've played 250 raked hands there. Once I reach 1,000 I may move on.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Mountaineering can mean pretty leaves as well as a summit

I scraped my first windshield of the season Sunday.
A thick coat of frost stuck to my car as my wife, Kate, and I walked out of the Alpine Inn, a quaint place we found in Gunnison a few hours after ditching my attempt to climb Vermillion.

That’s right. The climbing season might very well be over.

Fall is here, and in the San Juans, it appears, the cold and snow is leapfrogging fall and right into winter.

A windy, cold and unforecasted snowstorm knocked out my plans to climb the high 13er, what us climbers call a Centennial because it’s one of the highest 100 peaks in the state, near Silverton. It also may just end my season. I’m sick of fighting the weather every weekend — as I’ve already said, this was the fifth weekend in a row of bad weather — and I’ve only got this weekend before I can expect a path to a high summit without a lot of snow.

Driving home Sunday was, in a sense, as painful as the trip up would have been, as the skies were blue and crystal clear, featuring the kind of weather that makes mountaineers weep in gratitude.

But I left this weekend feeling like I had a good trip instead of crying over another lost chance to climb.
Kate, my wife, went with me, and we got to do see some of the best leaves I’ve seen in my life.

The best place we saw was over Monarch Pass on U.S. 285 outside of Poncha Springs. So that could mean by the time you make plans to go see it, that color might be over. The second-best place was over Red Mountain Pass just outside of Ouray, and even though the color was spectacular up there, it still has potential, and I’m guessing this weekend would be eye-popping.

We stayed in the Box Canyon Lodge in Ouray, where we could soak in several hot springs tubs. When I woke up Saturday morning, after reading a forecast of clear but cold and windy weather, the rain pattered against the window of my room. I couldn’t believe it. We drove up to Red Mountain pass anyway, thinking I could get a late start on the peak, and the mountains looked like ice cream cones, with harsh weather topping them like whipped cream.

Um, no.

But it didn’t seem to matter too much, once I got over my initial grumbling.
The drive up to the pass was beautiful, the kind of sights you only get to see three weeks out of the whole year. I still got to share with Kate many of my favorite adventures when I was chasing the 14ers, including the fun, 4WD road up to Mount Sneffels, Ouray’s king of the mountains, that I drove in hurricane-like weather the night before I planned to climb it, only to find starry skies at 3 a.m. when I got up from the back seat of my car to go to the bathroom.

On the way home, Kate said, “I want to go back next year.” She looked relaxed. It was good to get out of town and have a break from our little guy. And she realized, just like I discovered many years ago, that we are lucky to live in Colorado.

We started planning out next year as we drove back. We could stay a couple days in Lake City, where I staked my “base camp” the week I climbed five 14ers in a week and attempted a sixth (Sneffels the first time, when a thundersnowstorm drove me off). We could then go back to Ouray and get Vermillion. Maybe we could even bring Jayden, who would be 2 by then and might enjoy the sights.

Sometimes my most important mountaineering adventures, I am constantly reminded, come when I don’t even sniff a chance at making the summit.

Here are a few photos of the leaves and the snow later on. Check out the rainbow at the place we stayed Friday night. The hot springs were nice, too:

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Embarassing on ESPN

Well, I was pretty embarassed for poker last night during ESPN's World Series of Poker broadcast.
We live in an agricultural community out here in Weld County, Colorado, on the edge of both the mountains and the plains, but I saw far more jackasses last night than I have in my seven years here.
I can't remember all the names. They all run together anyway, and I don't want to spend one brain cell more on them anyway.

My favorite was the guy in the Sugar Ray "I just wanna fly" sunglasses who berated a player for calling an all-in with A,10 (correctly, but still...) and then called later with 6,5 os and a board that matched about as well as my junior high school outfits.
Norman Chad actually had some good lines last night berating the beraters. "How did you get here unsupervised?" was my favorite to a "How could you call that?"

I don't blame ESPN for showing all the sparks. It's entertaining.
But it's also embarassing to the game. All those hat/sunglasses/iPod dipshits thinking they're Phil Ivey, going all in with shit and then acting like it's the greatest move since the Stop N Go. Jamie Gold couldn't have come off as more of a douchebag if he gave off the slight odor of vinegar and baby powder. Even Jeffrey Lisandro, a classy, tough player, talked about taking off the head of a tournament director.

When do we get back to poker?

Poker is not the nicest game. I realize that. The objective is to take the other person's money. You do this through deception, trickery, bullying, besting or outright lying. But it's a beautiful, interesting, thoughtful game as well. And we don't need to muck it up any further by focusing on all the asses. There are plenty of classy players who, by the way, play a wonderful game, like, I don't know, Allen Cunningham. It would be nice to see a few more hands from him instead of brief clips of him dragging a pot or two.

My theory on all these guys is poker is basically for dorks, geeks and video game whizzes who have found a new itch to scratch. Before you flame me, yes, I include myself in that group, although I think the mountain climbing and running gets me out of the basement every once in a while. Many of you have kids or softball or gardening or something else.
These guys currently making a fool of themselves on ESPN don't seem to have anything else.

Suddenly these guys find themselves doing something somewhat cool and hip. There's a spotlight on them. They've never felt that before. So they have no idea how to act.

In the future, ESPN, can you please focus on those who do?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Scraping by on the SnG short stack

One of my best traits at the poker table is my ability to sip on a short stack until the money comes in a SnG.
It is unfortunately, something I've had a lot of practice doing.
I'm fine with that. I prefer to wait for good starting hands instead of think I'm Phil Ivey and shove my chips in with, say, A,4, as many of my opponents prefer to do, at least at the levels I play ($10 + $1 is my highest stake, but I've started to play those more frequently).
Actually, I don't even think Phil Ivey does that.
Anyway, probably half the time I play, I find myself nursing a short stack and waiting for a good opportunity.
You probably do to, if you're like me and:
• You fail to catch a fish
• You fold to most raises and refuse to get involved early on in the game unless you've got a hand you simply can't fold
• You are satisfied with cashing most of the time instead of taking chances so you can win
• You bluff sporadically but not enough to steal more than once per orbit
• You get a cold run of cards
• You suffer at least one suckout (par for me in an SnG is at least once, usually when something like my A,K loses to 10,3 sooted)
• You think patience, rather than aggression, gets you more money in an SnG (anyone who believes differently can look at my 67 percent ROI according to Sharkscope and see how they match up)
So, you've played good poker and you've been rewarded by having half as many chips as three of the other world-class poker players who doubled up by playing J,10; Q,K and 5,5 to a raise, respectively, the last guy tripling up when he went all-in against QQ and KK and spiked his 5 on the river.
Here's a few tips on how to make the money. This is mostly the same as Harrington's low-M stragety and his short-stack advice in his latest, Vol. III. But read on because you may offer a few more tips after mine here.
• When you're in, you're all in - Your equity gives you a good reason to push with hands like 9,8 soooted or Q,10 if your M drops below 5. On the bubble, most players won't take a chance of getting crippled unless they've got a monster, and if they do, well, there's nothing you can do.
• Don't call an all-in unless you either have a great read on a guy, and you might by this time, or you have a 10-percent hand like AA, AK sooted, KK or maybe QQ and JJ. Anything beyond that and you're likely in a coin flip, unless, again, you think the guy is a maniac.
• Trust your instincts. In fact, players become chip leaders in SnGs because they're idiots, took chances and got lucky. If you have A,10 and you're against one of those players, and you're really short, call. Occasionally you have to take a chance to win at SnGs.
• If you do call a maniac, or you push all-in because you're close to gasping for air, try to push with a hand that won't be dominated. Avoid hands like A,4, where someone will mostly likely call with any A, leaving you dominated. Try to push with, say, Q,10 or possibly 9,8, giving you a greater chance for a pair.
Also, if you get a pair, any pair, run with it if you're below 4.
• Don't wait until you're almost dead to push. Your equity is your best weapon. If you have an M of 2, all you're doing is pricing someone into calling you. You have to have the chips to hurt someone if they call. If you do, most of the time, they won't call, and you've stolen some significant blinds.
• Once you're in the money, you can loosen up, but only slightly. I can't tell you how much extra money I've won because players go back to their usual "Hey, I've got Q,5, I'm pooooshing here" and knocked themselves out. Obviously push if you have to, but don't just go all-in on the next hand because you've barely doubled your buy-in with third.
Good luck riding that short stack.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A reminder

Kinda frustrated right now.
After a week of beautiful weather for climbing, it's depressing, damp and dingy outside, and that's kinda how I feel on the inside. The forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of rain, which, all you poker players now, means 100 percent chance you will get sucked out on if you are ahead that far. It also means 100 percent rain, basically, in the mountains, or storms or snow. A high of 35. Winds up to 25 mph.

Does that sound fun to you?
Me either.
So I'm staying home unless the forecast changes.

People ask me if my climbing has changed since I had Jayden. Not really, I tell them. I still do dangerous routes.
But this has changed me in this way: Before I'd be more willing to just risk it and see if the weather suddenly got better. Now if I'm going to spend that much time away from him — usually climbing is at least a 12 hour day when you factor in the driving — I want a decent shot at the peak.
It doesn't sound like I'm going to get even that.

I may regret it tommorow, but I'm not going unless I pull a three-outer and the weather clears. As the forecast just keeps getting worse, I doubt it will happen.


• • •

I'm not a "God Bless the U.S.A." kind of guy. I think Bush is probably our Worst. President. Ever. I really hate the war in Iraq. And now they want to ban online poker. Hmph.

But I wrote this editorial for the Tribune that will run Sunday, and I believe every word of it. I hope you enjoy it and have a good weekend.

It’s still painful to see clips from what was one of our worst days in America’s history.

Even five years later, seeing that second plane slam into the innocent World Trade Center sends a spike through our hearts. If you catch any video of those people jumping out of the buildings, chances are you still have to avert your eyes. And footage of the collapse of the two towers can still bring tough, brave men from our local fire departments to tears.

But one memory, an important memory, should bring a smile to your face.
We responded with a patriotic flourish we haven’t enjoyed since World War II.

We sang “God Bless America” at ball games. Flag pins, flag shirts and flag hats became hip additions to our wardrobes, as if they were endorsed by fashion gurus from the show “Project Runway.” We even cheered for the hated, rich and somewhat snobby New York Yankees because we knew that city deserved a World Series after taking the kind of punishment no place should ever have to bear.
Most of all, we brought our flags out of the attic, dusted them off and flew them proudly, day and night, as a defiant fist-shake to the cowards who attacked us.

On the five-year anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, even for just one day, it’s time to fly them again.

The way we showed our love for our country was something positive out of all the horror. It was proof that good things can come out of unspeakable acts. It was a way to show terrorists that nothing will shake us from our foundations of freedom.

It’s probably safe to say that we always loved our country. We just forgot along the way to show it. Marriages suffer from the same natural tendency to take something so stable, so comfortable and so natural for granted. And yet, just as a heart attack, a car crash or the need for counseling can bring back the affection married couples once shared so freely, watching so many of us die so unexpectedly and without warning made us realize how dangerous it is to assume our country will always be there for us.

It seems funny to fly our flags on a day that was so terrible. After all, we fly our flags on holidays, days that are fun to remember and enjoy and celebrate, such as our nation’s independence.

Fly our flags on Sept. 11, then, to celebrate how our nation responded to such a knee-buckling strike.

Fly our flags to celebrate that patriotism and keep it in the backs of our minds.

Fly our flags to celebrate how one of our worst days soon became some of our best.

Monday, September 04, 2006

We now interrupt this blog...

(Let's pretend I have on a tacky checkered suit, a sweaty handshake and a bad haircut).



Sunday, September 03, 2006


I got my new laptop, a Mac Book that is my reward for a long summer of guiding, and so I spent Friday figuring that out rather than play poker.

Except that I did play one game, telling myself it would be a nice reward for a day of watching Jayden and figuring out the new computer.

And I played another $10 + $1, 30-person SnG, figuring I was freerolling for the week after my $120, first-place win the other night.

And I took second.
And won another $85.

You ever start avoiding the poker table because things are going too well? Like you figure variance is gonna kick you in the nuts one of these days?

I'm going for a hike Labor Day.

I just don't want to mess with karma right now.