Sunday, October 29, 2006

Boxed in

With my left hand wrapped in a band-aid the size of a hamster, the result of a serious rug burn after a mishap in a haunted house (or something like that), I strained and huffed and puffed my way through a monster stack of boxes into my brother-in-law’s trailer this weekend.
My poker game that night wasn’t much different.
Poker, like life right now, is a struggle.
It’s a happy struggle. For three years we wanted to sell our house. We put half our lives in storage. We waited to get high-speed Internet. We didn’t put up a Christmas tree. We took our pictures down and let “stagers” decorate our home for us. And we left our home three times a week and let strangers drag in mud on our carpet.
Now, finally, it’s all over. That takes the sting out of lifting your 157th box of the day.
Poker, also, is a happy struggle. Ultimately, after all, it’s there for my entertainment, and poker wouldn’t be fun, say, if all players did was push with J,3 os every time you held AA (ah, for the days of play money again).
But, damn, despite all that, my back hurts, and now my ass hurts as well after a weekend full of brutal, bad beats and tilty poker sessions.
Nothing, I believe, saps your ability to play well than losing a buy-in. I certainly won’t go the bad beats, but in all of them I was at least a 75 percent favorite, and all eight times I lost. And I would love to say that it was because of bad beats that I lost all my money. But I would be lying.
I found myself questioning my own play even before Bad Beat Thursday almost a year after I made my first deposit. I’ve made some good money (enough for a laptop and a trip to Vegas) playing poker, and I had one losing month out of the whole year.
All that goes out the window when you find yourself struggling at a $1 NL table, when you play well for hours and then give it all back and more in one hand. Or when you play SnG after SnG, including those advertised token races, and continue to bubble after months of crushing them.
You ask yourself several questions:
1) Was I winning simply because I was playing bad players? And now that I’m moving up, and (theoretically) playing better players, am I now one of the fish instead of the sharks?
2) Should I be more aggressive?
3) Why me?
After I did lose a buy-in at a $1 NL table (maybe not a lot to you, but ouch to me) Saturday, after a Thursday night that we should call the Night of the Living Suckouts (in honor of Halloween), I took a step back.
Throughout the last couple of weeks, as our lives are now cardboard boxes, cardboard boxes (yes, I meant to repeat that) and packing tape that seems to stick to itself more than the cardboard boxes, our mantra has been One Step At A Time.
It has probably saved my life already a couple of times, as my wife has nearly exploded once or twice. Truth be told, I would have spontaneously combusted myself a few times without that reminder.
Saturday night I took the same mantra.
One Step (Box?) At A Time.
OK, yes, I need to improve my aggression. But I’m not a calling station. I’m not weak/tight. I am an aggressive/tight player who sometimes errs on the side of being too cautious.
Fuck it. That’s who I am.
Once I realized that, I started winning again. I took two $8 beginner tournaments on Bodog and finished up $25 on Full Tilt. I cut my losses in half for the night. I even played my first Omaha Hi/Lo tourney, a 45-person, and cashed the damn thing (Drizz would be so proud of me). I went to bed satisfied.
I have started to bluff at orphan pots just begging to be picked up. I am making continuation bets now, even in cash games. And I am raising more pre-flop.
That’s enough for now.
One Step At A Time.
One day, when the boxes are unpacked, we’ll look for a new sofa.
And one day, I’ll tackle the $1 NL games again. And I’ll play them aggressively.
Just let me unload the trailer first.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Make the bad luck work for you

So you've had kind of a shitty week of poker, and you sit down Wednesday night ready to have some fun.
And the plan of fun quickly turns to shit, as bad luck, rather than chips, come your way yet again.
And you tell the person currently reading this blog (hi!) that this will not be a blog of bad beat stories. Trust me. I'm basically even for the week despite the blahness of it, and I've had a couple good weeks prior to this one, so No Bitching Allowed.
But you get NO action on your good cards in The Mookie. You raise with K,A four times and nothing. And you get QQ and nothing. Now I know I can be downlike rock-like at times, but I probably raised at least once an orbit. You might think that someone might want to look me up, no?

So, of course, I'm on life support, with about 1K in chips, and my M is 5, so I get 9,9 and shove. And someone with A,K calls me. A good call, in my mind. When the eager-beaver overacheiver gets not only one but two Ks on the flop, I'm done in 34th (?) place, and I lose yet a coin flip with a pocket pair against two overcards for the second week in a row.
I am not pissed at all, given that I enter The Mookie because it's fun to play with good players and have little to no expectation of winning on a regular basis. When the field is stacked, as they say, things simply have to go your way to make the final table.

So I then enter two token races, Turbo races, mind you, and I place 7th and 8th in both. Six places pay. I had chips in both and got blinded off essentially both times.

Now I know I have a serious hole in my game in that I don't like to steal too often. I prefer to wait for the cards and play them well. And the problem comes when you are second in chips in the goddam turbo tournament and the other short stacks refuse to cooperate and win their coin flips. You eventually just get eaten away by the blinds. And the blinds are so high you might as well go all-in rather than raise 3xs, given that you'll be left on life support if you lose.
Sorry, I don't want to put my hard-earned chips on the line with 10 high. And 10 high, or something less than that, was what I was seeing in these late rounds.

NOTHING makes you question your game more than bubble finishes. I'm too weak. I'm too predictable. I'm too patient. Patience, of course, is a good trait in many tournaments.
But basically I'm through with the Turbo token races. Yes, they pay better, but I think I might try the $6 slower races, as they pay less but are more suited to my style.

Then I entered a HORSE SnG for the first time evah and got sucked out on five times. Twice in Omaha, which don't really count, and twice in 7-card stud, the final blow coming when the dude called my two pair of As and Js with nothing and needing two spades with four cards to come. He got them both, the last on the cruel 7th Street. I win that and I probably cash.

So now I'm frustrated, but I saw something in Razz. I had never played Razz before but knew enough about it from reading all y' all. The game struck me as easy and fun.
So with a little coaching from Slb and Felicia's advice to never bring in unless you have three cards with 7 or under (I modified it to 8 or under), I dove into a $1/2 limit razz game to end the night.

I started down $8 but hung in there and played tight. And then I won a $25 pot with 2,3,4,6,7. Who-hoo! I was about $20 most of the night after winning another big pot when a guy called me with Q high (?). I did lose a couple of tough ones, including the last pot when a Q on 7th Street screwed me, but it worked out well and I won $12 for the session.
Plus the rake helped me with my bonus.

So the moral of the story is, if you're getting shitty luck, play Razz, where you will be transported to an alternate universe, where bad luck is good, Hair Metal is still popular, and Britney Spears never got pregnant and is still appearing on TV half-naked.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Results from last night:

• Two $8 beginner SnGs from Bodog, played at the same time:

First - $16 profit
Third - $4 profit

$20 profit. Not bad for an hour's work!

• $10 NL cash game played while playing the SnGs

$5 profit

• $100 NL cash game on Full Tilt:


This doesn't make me a shark because sharks can take on the badasses as well as the guppies.
Apparently, lately, I'm really good at shredding guppies by the mouthful and losing to the sting rays and barracudas at the $1 NL tables.
I think this makes me a scavenger type, or a type of fish that feeds on the bottom feeders and dead money.

I am poker crustacean.

P.S. Tonight I will continue to crawl along the botton depths as I'll be hunting for tokens on Full Tilt in preparation for the DADI tournament!!!!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

My 1-year-old is better than me

Occasionally, it’s hard not to get jealous of my 16-month-old.
Especially when Mom comes to visit.
I take the “oohs” and “awwws” and “how cutes” from all the hot women I run into as a source of pride. I helped create Jayden, after all, and I gave him those long, darling eyelashes that everyone just gushes over. I also think he’s pretty cute myself.
So I don’t get jealous there.
I take the “look at how talented he is” comments with a grain of salt. Basically everyone underestimates babies. If they can go through a day without getting a lot of poop on their foreheads, everyone thinks they’re going to design the next particle accelerator.
So I don’t get jealous there either.
But Mom comes to town, as she is now, and a small part of me, just a small part, sometimes gets a little annoyed. She’s obviously there to see Jayden.
Her grandson.
My friends have told stories about how their parents’ attention shifts once they poke out a kid or two. I was prepared for that. Mostly.
Jared, one of my best friends, is a veteran Dad. I basically see him as the Phil Ivey of dads for all you poker players. So he fills me in on little bits of advice. He loves to tell a story about a visit from his mother.
I’ll get some of the details wrong, but basically his mother, upon her greeting, was in the backseat with his two boys for a good 20 minutes before Jared finally said, “Oh, by the way, hi Mom.”
I greeted Mom at the airport, so I knew that wouldn’t happen.
But since then a lot of her attention has gone to Jayden.
Now it’s not fair for me to say Mom’s ignored me. In fact, the break from all Taz, all the time, has been nice. Jayden, shall we say, likes to explore and seems to have an unlimited reservoir of energy in which to do so.
But Mom came out to visit, maybe, once a year. This time she said she plans to come out every four months. And she said, once, “I’m out here to get my grandchild fix.”
Don’t I count?
Sometimes that thought creeps through. But I can’t allow myself to think that way.
And here’s why.
The package may be funnier and cuter. And a lot more adorable.
But when she comes out to see Jayden, she’s still seeing me.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I am poker champ?

Part of me says yes.

A much louder, more annoying and more insistent part of me is saying no today.
Exhibit A, presents the louder Prosecutor (Mr. High on Poker, perhaps?), says that I went all in with 7,7 when I still had 950 of my original 1,500 in chips in the Mookie last night.
"He limped in, your honor, and then pushed to a re-raise, which screams small pocket pair!!!"
Said Jordan, an aggressive Jordan, mind you, also raised me off K,Q and A,J twice with 7,2.

But I digress. My opponent called with Q,J, which is not a good call, except in those cases, when he read me like War and Peace, or perhaps Jayden's current favorite, "Duck on Holiday." (I can't give myself credit for War and Peace).
He got his J and that was that. So much for my Final Table/money performance last week. That's older news than Brad and Jennifer's break up.

Exhibit B, Mr. Prosecutor (Jordan) says, is the fact that I stacked off at Bodog at a $10 NL table (.5/.10 for those of you counting at home) when I flopped a straight with A,5, the only slight problem, of course, is that there were three clubs out there, and not only did one of the opponents have the other two, both did.

Exhibit C? I can't beat Full Tilt. Sure, I can crush Bodog's little puny limits, and crack the hell out of the $8 Beginner Tournaments and make $250 in two weeks playing those tables. But throw some decent players my way, the Prosecutor says, and you leak chips like little blood vessels escaping your injured, helpless bankroll.

OK, so my defense jumps to my rescue. So you didn't win a race in the Mookie. Is anyone good enough to win a tough tournament like that without winning a race? Maybe. But I doubt it.
And OK, so you stacked off that $10. You wound up WINNING $25 ahead after you settled down and played good, aggressive poker. Who cares if it's against weaker opposition? Money is money. Most casinos are filled with bad players, players much worse than the Internet, and you don't mind stacking them.
Full Tilt is a bit of a concern, sure, but you've won on every other site, and you've only lost $50 on that site. Just play well and the money will come. You even folded Q,Q last night to a raise and a re-raise after being painfully card dead, and sure enough, one guy had A,A and the other guy had K,K. Yes, a Q came on the flop, and you would have won a $150 pot, but you wanna call off $50 for 20 percent every time? I didn't think so.

The defense, however, just gets shouted down too often.

Poker is a tough hobby. I don't mind being tough on myself. That's how I'll improve.

But far too often, I attach my play to my self-worth and call myself an idiot when perhaps I should just realize that, hey, that's poker.

And let the Prosecution rest.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Spice plus Sports equals Pokerpeaker

I'd be Sporty Spice.

If I have to explain why, you obviously haven't read this blog much.

Plus she was a lesbian. Maybe. So we have those two things in common.

That's enough for me.

Question of the day: I've been playing these $8 beginner tournaments at Bodog to help clear my bonus while I'm two-tabling. Basically it pays five spots instead of three. I've been crushing them. I am not a pro, but I'm not a beginner either. So at times I feel like Kramer beating up all the kids in his karate class on "Seinfeld."
My question is, does that make me a bad person?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

You want what? Fine, we'll take something better

Well. It’s been a hectic couple of days, so hectic I was only able to squeeze in five hours of poker.
Which reminds me of one of the funniest quotes from Homer Simpson:
“I had to work two jobs and take care of Maggie and the other kids at home. It was tough, but somehow I managed to squeeze in eight hours of TV a day.”
But I digress, as usual.

We got the house.
We just didn’t the house we wanted at first.
But we may have gotten the house we wanted more.

On the first house, the owners counter-offered. Technically. Actually, their offer was about as funny as a donkey justifying why he was correct to call with his inside straight draw after you bet twice the pot.
We offered $5,000 off the list price and $5,000 in closing costs. Yes, with that kind of offer, you expect a counter.

They countered with full price.
Or we could pay $5,000 more and have $5,000 in closing costs.
And they wanted to close three weeks later than our move-out date.
And they wanted to put a contingency on that moving date that basically said if they didn’t find a home they liked before the closing date the deal was off.
My response was pretty simple.

“Have the realtor call us when they’re ready to sell the house.”

So that left us scrambling Friday to find another house, and sometimes, when you take a second look at something, the light shines much brighter, much like how when you take another look at how you played your set and realize that the guy had an uber-draw and it really wasn’t as big a suckout as you thought when you lost.

We initially dismissed a house we really liked because it seemed to be too expensive and it didn’t have a fence in the back. With our options limited — one of the homes we looked at Friday was decorated before the age of disco, with the golden yellow 60’s lava lamp wallpaper in the upstairs bathroom the highlight — we took another look at it.
And we fell in love.

The fence, we decided, could be built in the back, and Mom, God Bless her, instantly volunteered to help pay for it. Yes, the price was more than we wanted, but our payments would be about $100 more a month, and we would bargain them down a bit.

We offered essentially $7,000 off the list price and said we had to close Nov. 8.
Last night our realtors called with the good news: They signed the contract.

Sometimes things happen for a reason, as cliched as that sounds. We would have been happy with the first house, but we think we’ll be much happiera with the new one.

Packing feels like fun after the long struggle.
After three years, one more month, and it’s all over. Well, until Kate decides she wants to change something about the house. But that’s a new struggle. After three years, I’m ready for any struggle that’s new.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Beginners luck at the Mookie...aka waiting on a house...aka I'm a nervous little rascal

That title is a tribute to the blogging world's rising star, Iakaris, who generously railbirded me with buckets of good advice at the final table of the Mookie.

The encouragement was much needed, given that I was in a tournament with bloggers for the first time, which is something like going from fighting guys in Iak's medical school Chemistry 678 class for a long time to facing, um, Mike Tyson? (The old Mike, the badass one, not the ear biter, although even that version of Mike could put a world of hurt on me, to be honest; I'm a lover, not a climber, or something like that).

Thanks also go to Drizz and Slb as well.

I would link y'all but I don't have my linky HTML thing here at home, and it's 11 p.m. and I haven't heard about our offer on a house yet so I'm a little cranky. Bitchy, even.

I am proud of the way I played, but I would also like to say that having, say AA and then flopping a set and having someone else flop an underset, shall we say, helps a little. Pushing with JJ when you are on life support and getting a call from 6,6 and then flopping Quads, shall we say, helps. Having Will, whom I love, push with A,J on the short stack and having A,Q winking at me helps, and having 7,7 hold up against A,K helps too. So lady luck was not only on my side but in my damn bed last night demanding I put out for the fourth time in an hour. And she had huge boobs.

I may have done better had I not gotten too frisky with Q,J sooted and K,9 os near the end there, trying to be the bully I know I should be with a big chip lead but can just never seem to manage the right spots to do so. But it's all good, I made the money, and the money, even last money, is better than bouncing on the bubble.

I will have to play more blogger events, as they are a blast.

• • •

Complicating things a bit is the fact that we were supposed to hear about our offer by 9 p.m., and it's 11:05 p.m., which is definitely not 9 p.m. That's OK. We're only talking about our fucking life here. I'm guessing they want to counter offer, which is fine, we can deal until the sun goes down, except it's far down now.

• • •

Tough workout tonight. Six three-minute runs, with three sets of two three-minute runs back to back and a three minute rest in between sets. I ran them at about a 6:30 mile pace each, and so my leg cramped up at the final table, which is something I've never seen before on ESPN.

Speaking of which, were you gagging as much as I was when Dutch Boyd on this week's show gets his whole sob story about making the final table but never winning the big one? And then him squawking about how great he was and that no one can beat him even though he was playing against the WORLD CHAMP (the last great one anyway, not our current douchey)? And then ESPN stating for like 10 seconds in passing that he tried some venture and "a lot of people were upset at him?" Way to report the shit out of that ESPN.

Yuck. Yuck yuck yuck.

Here's to final tables, final offers and one final stretch before I hit the hay.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Full House

Why do we play 3,3, even to a standard re-raise, when just about anything can squash it after the river?
We hope that that magical third 3 will hit a rainbow flop, and then you get a whole lotta chippies shipped your way and you get to brag in your blog that you are the Best Poker Player Ever.
If a fourth hits, you get to say something about quads and beeches.
The chances are small, of course, that you will hit, but when you do, magic happens.
Or everyone folds to your bet and you get $2.
But I digress.
I kept this in mind every time we would spend an hour picking up toys, shoving magazines in the bottom drawer under the TV and loading up the two wild labs and the kiddie-poo in the car for a showing. I kept it in mind through the endless open houses when I had to take the labs to the dog park on a windy, cold day and the Chiefs were actually playing on CBS that week instead of the goddam Denver Broncos. I kept it in mind when, twice, we had offers waived under our nose, only to yank them away at the last second, once because they decided our basement was just a little too big. Suckouts happen against you as well, even when you have a set.
Such is the housing market in Greeley, CO. I even wrote stories on it. If you had a home you needed to sell, well, your chances were about as good as hitting your set on the flop. We have too many lots and despite our monster growth, not even people to buy them.
In our case, our chances were much, much worse, given that in three years on the market, we had two close calls and no offers. Our home was nice, honest. We aren't meth users. We just had only two bedrooms and a monster-huge basement (finished). That was enough to turn away most families who were in that first-time homebuyer market we were trying to serve.
That's about a 1:456 chance, which is, if I"m not mistaken, like getting AA back to back and getting them paid both times? It's twice as easy to flop a flush than those odds.
But then, during another showing last week, Kate called and said the people were there for more than a half-hour and were very excited about the house. At that point, I was through. I had had enough of playing those small pocket pairs only to get stiffed on the flop. I was convinced we were never going to sell our home.
Friday, we got an offer.
I couldn't even believe it at first. And it was fair, really a fair offer.
We've spent the last few days shopping for a new house. We need more room for the J-man and possibly another one on the way in the next few months (before you start sending me cigars, no, it hasn't happened yet). We need a house we're happy with.
We need a home.
I'm trying not to think too hard about it, but tonight we will narrow our choices and pick a home. I'll finally be able to get high speed Internet and have my own "guy's" room. Our "two car" garage won't force us to lose 30 pounds every time we try to get out of our cars. I won't have to fuck with the goddam weeds in the back all the time or pick up after our ugly cottonwoods.
Our buyer is a kind old lady who loved our house. I doubt she's backing out. The chips have not been shipped my way yet.
But I think, finally, I just hit a full house.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mile High

I didn’t expect much from my last mile of the year with Doug Bell’s track group on Wednesday nights.
The group meets once a week to run intervals, which are short, measured bursts of intense running designed to boost the way your body processes oxygen. They are painful and intense and yet I credit them, more than any other part of my fitness plan, for dropping my race times and making me as fit as I can be.
I am not an athlete. I am a hard worker whose only talent, in my mind, is a strong will and a lot of endurance. I have little, if any, athletic ability and get by because I work hard, not because I have any grace or skill. Mountain climbing and running are great sports for me, then, because you can excel in them with hard work instead of Michael Jordan’s athletic ability.
As a result, I doubt myself frequently when it comes to sports.
So as I trudged up the hill ready to start, I planned on running under 6:30. I ran 6:16 in August, a time that thrilled me, the fastest I had ever run, ever, in my life. I started running two years ago but did run a bit in junior high school, but I never reached past 6:30 in the mile. I figured 6:16 was a fluke, and I wasn’t exactly confident after throwing up and battling the 24-hour flu Monday night.
Bell’s group runs the mile as a way to test ourselves, to see how hard we’ve worked and how we’ve progressed through the interval/racing season. So it’s an important test, and everyone takes it very seriously.
Bell, who still runs 5Ks in under 17 minutes despite being in his mid-50s, sounded the gun, and off we went.
I yelled at myself to relax as I ran down the hill and into Nottingham Field. My biggest problem is sometimes I run TOO seriously, tensing up, which constricts my breathing, a fate that is pure death for a runner trying to set a personal record.
By the half-mile, my time was 3:00.
I was stunned.
My legs tightened a bit, as they always do, about halfway through the third quarter, but I told myself to just maintain the pace. I struggled to do so, but I told myself to continue to relax and breathe.
I picked it up a little at the end, but I didn’t have the kick I wanted. When you’re already at your maximum, asking your body to do much more is a little difficult.
I crossed the line in 6:10.
I couldn’t let out a primal scream. I didn’t have the breath for that.
A smile, and the satisfaction that maybe I was an elite runner now, was enough.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Straight flush to the rescue!!!

How can you not love hands like these?

* Stage #461508779: Holdem No Limit $1 - 2006-10-03 16:27:33 (ET)
Table: GOLDEN DR. (Real Money) Seat #5 is the dealer
Seat 5 - BRONCSX3 ($123.10 in chips)
Seat 6 - EROCPLAYER ($277.85 in chips)
Seat 7 - PUSHINSTACKS ($98 in chips)
Seat 8 - KOOLROMEO ($112.85 in chips)
Seat 9 - TWEETY1947 ($45.40 in chips)
Seat 1 - POKERPEAKER ($75 in chips)
Seat 2 - LIGHTNING36 ($101.70 in chips)
Seat 3 - RANGERXBOB ($144.99 in chips)
Seat 4 - CLIFFF ($38.50 in chips)
EROCPLAYER - Posts small blind $0.50
PUSHINSTACKS - Posts big blind $1
Dealt to POKERPEAKER [Js Qs]
TWEETY1947 - Folds
LIGHTNING36 - Calls $1
CLIFFF - Folds
BRONCSX3 - Folds
EROCPLAYER - Calls $0.50
*** FLOP *** [10s Jc 9s]
*** TURN *** [10s Jc 9s] [2d]
*** RIVER *** [10s Jc 9s 2d] [Ks]
POKERPEAKER - Raises $20 to $20
EROCPLAYER - Raises $60 to $65
POKERPEAKER - All-In(Raise) $49 to $69
*** SHOW DOWN ***
POKERPEAKER - Shows [Js Qs] (Straight flush, king)
POKERPEAKER Collects $149 from main pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total Pot($152) | Rake ($3)
Board [10s Jc 9s 2d Ks]
Seat 1: POKERPEAKER won Total ($149) All-In HI:($149) with Straight flush, king
[Js Qs - B:Ks,P:Qs,P:Js,B:10s,B:9s]
Seat 2: LIGHTNING36 Folded on the FLOP
Seat 4: CLIFFF Folded on the POCKET CARDS
Seat 5: BRONCSX3 (dealer) Folded on the POCKET CARDS
Seat 6: EROCPLAYER (small blind) HI: [Mucked] [As 3s]
Seat 7: PUSHINSTACKS (big blind) Folded on the FLOP
Seat 8: KOOLROMEO Folded on the POCKET CARDS
Seat 9: TWEETY1947 Folded on the POCKET CARDS

One soft ball, big balls to play tight and why puking at 3 a.m. may only be the 24-hour flu

OK, first things Frist.
I played poker last night.
(Said in that bully’s voice on “The Simpsons): Ha ha!
Strangely enough I managed to do this without deciding to start selling heroin to prospective customers at Jayden’s day-care, sampling the majority of Las Vegas’ hookers or betting the deed to our house on a pair of 6s.
But you never know, right? Thank God poker is being banned. Now I’ll only watch evangelists on TV and dress in white all day and smell faintly like peppermint.

• • •

I was especially proud of my two-hour session on Absolute Poker, and not just because I managed to say fuck you to the Man. I cleared 100 hands of my 400-hand PSO bonus, which means I’ll get it done even before the SWAT team and black helicopters swarm my house. Ha ha! And not only that, I finished ahead $30, which was nice given my bad luck as of late (two-outers were golden against me in the last couple of weeks), and I played $1 NL for the first time in my life, figuring that, given the current situation, there was no time like the present to try it out, right?

But I was most proud of the fact that I was down at least $50 combined on both tables and yet managed to come back and finish ahead. Usually if I’m down for the night, I’m down for the whole night, either stewing far too much about the bad beat I took (tonight’s specialty was losing to a pair of 3s with KQ and top two pair despite me betting the shit out of the hand when he spiked his set on the river) or playing with my balls shrunk up to my stomach because I don’t want to finish further down for the night.

Sure, I hit quads on the turn with MY pair of 3s and got insane action on the hand. That helped a lot with the comeback.
But mostly I made a tough call.

• • •

Playing a tight style, as I do, seems easier. Dan Harrington in his tournament series even says it’s much better for beginners to play in that style because the energy they expend throughout the tournament is much less than the level needed to be an aggressive player. You don’t face nearly as many tough decisions that way, he said.
That’s true, and yet, playing tight means occasionally you face some incredibly difficult decisions on whether to call.
In order to play tight effectively, you have to be willing to make some tough calls, or even raise, in some difficult situations.

Last night I had A,10 and simply called, as I like to do a little more than I’m willing to admit. When the flop came 10-high with a flush and straight draw out there, I bet it hard. I had two callers.
The next two cards were blanks, or at least they looked like blanks to me, given that there was no way they could have helped the draws. I think one was a 2 of diamonds and the other was the 4 of clubs. I bet it hard again on the turn and then checked on the river, the smart thing to do when you’ve got a medium-strength hand, or at least that’s the way I roll.

Unfortunately, many times, the “play-ahs” at the table see a check on the river as a good opportunity to bluff, and that’s when you have to made a decision while the board is beeping at you.

My opponent, as we were heads up at that point, bet the pot, a stiff bet of $25. I’ve thrown away TPTK many times facing such a bet in the past and been right many times.
But the bet made no sense, unless he had a set, but if he had a set or two pair, even, wouldn’t he of raised me with the draws out there when I bet initially? I figured yes, and that he was bluffing, and I made the tough call.
He was bluffing.

I’m not bragging about the hands. It’s possible, too, that I was already slightly tilting from losing to the 3s and this was a “ah, fuck it” call, and I got lucky. But reading bluffs is probably the biggest way I’ve improved as a poker player in the last two months.
And it’s because I’m willing to make those tough calls now to protect my game as a tight/aggressive player. If you don’t, tight just ain’t right.

• • •

I’ve always loved softball. I played it all through my elementary years and through high school, forgoing baseball (the ball goes too fast) for a more relaxing game that still let me dream about being George Brett for a day.
That’s why, I suppose, I have looked forward to tonight’s game all week, even though I’m 34 and even though it’s coed softball in a novice league.
Our Tribune team is 6-0 and we’ve got a chance to go undefeated for only the third season in the almost 15 I’ve played for the city league.

The good news is we’ve already won our division, so the pressure is off. The bad news is we’re playing the other team that won its division, and I have a sneaking suspicion those players are just better than us. We should, at least, give them a great game.

I plan to go out and play as hard as I can despite puking my guts out at 3 a.m. My first thought was “Oh, no, I might not be able to play,” as if I was a 10-year-old worried about his night trick-or-treating and having to go to school first. Fortunately when I woke up this morning I felt pretty good. Not 100 percent but a lot better than I thought I would. Say 80 percent? 80 percent is good enough for softball.

I have no idea why my stomach decided to believe I was at 28,000 feet climbing Everest, but maybe there is something to that “24 hour flu” everyone talks about getting. I always thought that was an urban legend, as I rarely get sick, like once every five years, but when I do, it usually takes a week of me moaning on the couch for me to recover.
I have to go. There’s only three more hours before I have to leave for tonight’s game.
Then I’ll be on slinging the virtual chips under the cover of darkness, or, at least, my basement.

P.S. Mega props to CC of Quest of a Closet Poker Player for tipping me off to a college student in Greeley who makes almost $10,000 a month playing online poker and appeared in the “Wall Street Journal.” CC's analysis of the new poker laws will not only shine some sun on that little black spot in your heart, it's the best breakdown of what exactly is going on I've read on the Web.

Monday, October 02, 2006

My game plan

OK, after reading through the stories and information online, here's what I'll do:

• Pull all but $50 from my Full Tilt account.
This, of course, assumes that Full Tilt stays in the market.
• Pull all money from other sites such as Poker Room and Hollywood Poker. Those two sites got me started, and I would love to stay, but I have to consolidate at this point.
• Work like hell to work through my Absolute Poker PSO bonus.
When I do that, pull the money out of Absolute Poker.

• Continue to play poker at Full Tilt as often as I possibly can (see above for caveat).
• Continue to read about what others are doing.
• If Full Tilt does pull out, find a site that will accept U.S. players, see if it matches with PSO or VPP and play there.
• Deposit no more than $100 in that site and pull any money I win over $100 from there once a week into Neteller.
An incredible pain in the ass, but right now, until I'm assured that things should be OK, then I'll have to do that.
If I lose that $100, then I do. I've won far too much from online poker to completely just give up. I figure $100 is worth the risk.

• If things do get as bad as the Chicken Littles say they will, then:
— Cry
— Look into setting up an offshore account?
— Fuck it and try to play live poker as much as I can. Any suggestions for finding underground games in your cities? (Actually, I do have some resources here from my reporting; I wonder if I could work them and find games around town).
Also, go up to Black Hawk more often.

What is everyone else doing?

Run like hell or storm the wall?

I have no idea what to do.
Should I accept that the man has won this battle and pull all my money or keep it there and see what happens?
I would love to say fuck you and continue to play.
But I don't want to lose that money either.
Here are some questions that I don't know if anyone can answer:
• Neteller is an offshore account. How, then, do the laws pertain to them?
• Is Neteller solely for poker accounts? Can a bank legally reject a transaction just because the money is PROBABLY for poker?
• Can't Neteller send us a check? Does the company have to act through a wire transfer? So if we just kept the money in Neteller and received checks from them, isn't that a way to skip the law?
• When would the law go into effect? As soon as Bush signs it?
• Is there any real way a bank can pour over every individual account and reject it based on a wire transfer that MIGHT be for poker? I'm not buying it. I really don't think banks want to enforce this law and could care less.

I guess I'll pull money from my fringe accounts. I'm tempted to pull from Full Tilt but I don't want to do that just yet. I'm also tempted to pull from Absolute and screw the PSO bonus. But I also want to see what happens first.

• I really hope this is all much ado about nothing.

• What is everyone else doing?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Bonus whoring, suckouts and a site that isn't the Absolute

Got a bonus for me?
I'm there.
As I've said before, my new Mac notebook now runs Windows, and that's led me go nuts on Poker Source Online.
I've cleared in the bonuses on Party Poker (instant bankroll) and Full Tilt ($50 Best Buy card), and while I continue to work off my $250 deposit bonus at Full Tilt, something that I figure will take me a couple of months, I figured I would work off another quickie at Absolute Poker.

My first, instant impression of Absolute is "eh." This is only after playing maybe 25 hands last night on my neighbor's hijacked wireless connection before I went back to working on my movie of Jayden's first year (I know you're all DYING to see that), but I guess my standards are pretty high, given that I've seen ads on national TV and Mark Seif and others endorse it.
I was shocked to find only one table with 9 players for a $50 NLHE cash game. I had to settle for a six-person ring game, and it's going to be difficult to clear 400 hands at those (.50 or more rake equals one hand). It was late, granted, but it was also Saturday night.
Do you Absolute players notice this or was I just drunk and didn't know it?
The interface seems confusing to me, too. It's possible that I'll clear my PSO bonus and maybe $50 of my deposit bonus and then just skedaddle. I'd rather play on Full Tilt, and there's too many other Web sites I haven't tried, like Poker Stars.

I didn't look, but it's possible Absolute has more games at $1/2 limit, which I could try. I prefer NL. It seems to me that limit takes a lot of the essential elements out of the game, including bluffing, betting and pushing drawers off their hands, but that may sound to you like the comments of an inexperienced limit player. It's also possible that my extremely tight game is more suited to limit and I just don't know it yet.

Speaking of my game, I am paying more attention to position and attempting to bluff more than ever. I'm attempting to switch up my game, which is solid, effective and winning but far too predictable to move up to the higher limits, as I hope to do one day. There will be growing pains, but the other day I did win a hand I shouldn't have with K,A, and there's something about bluffing a player off a hand that gives you satisfaction, as the Stones would say. When your AA holds up, you're more relieved or vindicated, not thrilled.

And speaking of my game, it's been a frustrating three weeks. I don't want to sound whiny, but I've been mostly card dead, and when I do get a monster, my patience is rewarded by having my opponent hit his two-outer on the river. Waaaaaaaaaaa, I know, I know, but when it happens a lot, poker loses its luster a bit.

I'm proud of the way I've handled the losses, however. In the past, I would stew about suckouts for days, bitching about the unfairness of it all. Now I realize that suckouts and bad luck are just part of the game. Dan Harrington mentioned in one of his brilliant tournament books that we tend to forget about the times we're extremely lucky. I've learned more from Harrington than any other pro, and he's right. My suckout to sucked-out ratio is still unfairly high, and yet that tells me I'm playing well for the most part and getting my money in with the best of it. If I keep playing like that, ultimately I'll win, even if I lose money in a three-week period (maybe more, the losing streak, however mild, ain't over yet).

It's helped me keep a clear head. When I had my full house lose to a higher full house because the guy hit his two-outer on the river in a cash game, in the very next hand I was dealt A,Q and a guy to my left when all in for his last $30. Some would look at this as a "golden" opportunity to get your money back, but I folded, and I doubt I had him beat. Medium-sized losses don't have to become big ones.

And speaking of clear heads (I'm speaking a lot, aren't I?), I went for a 10-mile run today, and that really helps clear the head. It was wonderful, and I'm in good shape for the half marathon in November. I'm not even tired. I'm thinking about doing a marathon, actually, but geez that's a long way to run.

And speaking of suckouts, my fantasy team just lost a 50-point lead when my opponent had two players going and I had Carson Palmer. Santana Moss scored three TDs, LaMont Jordan got a TD and Palmer sucked and fumbled twice, meaning he cost me about as many points as he scored.
Now THAT'S a two-outer.
Suckouts just don't happen in poker.