Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Why I lost at poker in 20 easy steps

Poker last night:

1) Wait for good hands.
2) Continue to wait.
3) Wait some more.
4) Try bluffing.
5) Oops.
6) Continue to wait for good hands.
7) Finally get good hand. Raise.
8) Miss flop.
9) Continuation bet anyway.
10) Oops.
11) Wait for another good hand.
12) Keep waiting.
13) Fold 10,3 os for the 20th time that night.
14) Watch "Everest" on the Discovery Channel for much-needed break
15) Turn on computer again.
16) Wait for good hands.
17) Keep waiting.
18) Finally get great hand.
19) Suffer suckout.
20) Start over.

P.S. Cash at $11 SnG on Full Tilt (third, who-hoo) after pushing all-in at least 15 times with crazy-high blinds and have no callers with each push, including one with AA (but with several others with 4,4 and A,8 and such).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Poker is not a healthy habit (but it sure is fun)

I'm dragging a bit today.
And it doesn't have much to do with the fact that I rifled through more cardboard boxes in the last two days than a hobo's lifetime. Or surrendering to the crowds at Kohl's when Black Friday came (name the song or band I'm referring to there) and settling for a $59 Portable DVD at Radio Shack and a bunch of gift cards purchased online. Or the fact that I"m at work after a three-day weekend. Or that the house is almost moved, but that it seems like "we've only got a few more boxes to unpack" has lasted for two weeks now, as if we're stuck in a "Groundhog Day"-like move, where every day, a fresh stack of cardboard boxes packed with Kate's 25,783 knick-knacks that only a woman could love awaits me.
No, I played a $10 buy-in home game tournament last night. Blinds go up every 20 minutes, with a computer keeping track of the blinds, the time and their size. Pretty cool. I went after a get-together with our little group, which ended with lots of queso and the first half of the beaaaaauuuuuoooootiful Kansas/Florida game.
I taped the second half and headed over to the game, which kicked off at 11 p.m. I got home at 3 a.m.
And I got up at 9 a.m. to run eight miles with my running partner.
Poker is a hobby that seems to conflict with staying healthy, despite Cindy Violette and all her crystals, strange-ass food and general meditating. When I play poker, I eat candy, queso, ice cream, drink beer and frozen lemonade and stay up too late. When I run, or climb mountains, I eat healthy, drink water and get up early.
Poker happens late at night, when the dark side of human nature howls like the coyotes behind our new house.
Running or climbing usually happens that morning, when the birds are chirping, the sun is shining and Jayden is either happily screaming and running through the house or peacefully watching "Little Einsteins," a show that teaches him classical music and that friendly rockets can fly if you pat your lap fast enough.
Running makes me feel good. Climbing gives me wonderful memories and enough photos to entertain those who watch the Discovery Channel's "Everest" show (8 p.m. mountain time Tuesdays, you MUST check it out) for three years.
Poker frustrates me, stresses me out and occasionally really pisses me off, like when I lost to five two-outers in the last two days. Yes, poker makes me feel good when I win, in the same way that a herion injection probably makes a junkie smile.
I believe everyone needs a vice, or else we become boring monks. Poker is definitely my vice. I could give up beer, or fattening foods (or at least reduce them), or nekkid ladies, but I could not, should not and will not give up poker.
I am at war with my vice.
I took second in that tournament.
That will help pay for a new pair of running shoes.
I am at war.
But we secretly meet at night, in the fog and under the bridge, through the cover of darkness, to embrace.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thank God for Thanksgiving

Reasons I could be in a bad mood:

• I ran 22:55 in the Turkey Trot this year. A 7:23 per mile pace, but a disappointing time. The 5K is a tough course, and the first mile is all uphilll, and I ran that mile too quickly, frying me for the rest of the race.
• I'm playing the other division leader in my fantasy football game this week, a game I really need to win. He has Terry Glenn. Terry Glenn decides to look like a hall of famer. I have Joey Galloway. Joey Galloway decides to look merely competent.
• The Chiefs play the Bronocs tonight. They need to win.

Reasons why I'm not:
Food, family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Edit: And a HUGE Chiefs victory doesn't hurt!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pre-Thanksgiving Day thoughts

The tunnel is still dark, but I can just barely make out a flashlight at the end, a tiny, glimmering light.
We're getting there.

Boxes are starting to disappear. We are starting to see our carpet in the basement (a not-so-flattering shade of Miami Dolphin blue that isn't quite teal but is closer than I would like, but we'll tackle that in a couple of years). We aren't tripping nine times a day over knick knacks and paddywhacks. Jayden isn't falling into cardboard boxes nearly as much as before.

We're starting to make our place into a home instead of "a place where we've put all our shit."

• • •

This job doesn't pay well, but it can be fun sometimes. And it has its perks.

Phil Gordon's manager e-mailed me about a story I wrote about the new online regulations. When I said OHMYGODI'MSUCHABIGFAN and mentioned I didn't have the DVDs, he sent a signed copy of Final Table Poker to me.
It's fantastic.

Sorry. I'm sounding ubergey right now.

• • •

Two days and counting
No, not to the turkey.
The Turkey Trot.

I’m not sure why I’m putting so much stake into this race. Yes, I’m certainly competitive. Um, OK, VERY competitive, but mostly with myself. So, yes, that’s part of it.
But I think it’s because I really do measure my progress through this race.
I first ran the Turkey Trot, a 5K, two years ago and was proud of my 27-minute time. Last year I was a little bummed at just over 23 minutes but recognized that I had, indeed, improved a lot. This year I’m shooting for just over (or just under) 22 minutes, and I think I can I think I can I think I can.

I sincerely hope that this race will go much like the half marathon a couple weeks ago, when I set what I think may be an unrealistic goal and actually do better than it.

But 5Ks are unpredictable at best. They are three miles, but they are basically sprints, and a bad start can wreck your whole race. And there’s certainly a good chance of a bad start, given that the race’s first mile is mostly uphill. Run it too fast, and you burn yourself out the rest of the race. Run it too slow, and you’ll never catch up.
And running up hills just kinda sucks.

I’m trying to enjoy the preparation for this race as much as I can. The Trot is one of my favorite races of the year, a time when Greeley gets together to run before we all stuff ourselves. It’s a wonderful holiday tradition.
I hope I feel that way after it’s over.

• • •
Suckouts are really starting to piss me off.
I suffered three brutal, but-I-was-dominating (!) suckouts last night in my SnG. I win one of those, I definitely cash. There's nothing more disheartening than playing well and getting good hands the whole game, only to lose because some idiot calls you with an inferior hand and gets lucky. Because I'm a good player (cough, cough), as you all are, I suffer far more than I dish out. It honestly makes me want to go all-in with K,J on the first hand and laugh like a monkey when I spike that second J on the river.
Maybe I will with a $1 tournament. Or I'll play penny poker.

I know they shouldn't bother me as much as they do. They're part of the game, poker is still gambling even if it is skilled gambling, and I should let all the jackasses who gloat about it later just roll off my back. Maybe I'm playing too much, but I'm not, actually. I think I am playing more SnGs lately, and maybe I'm just not as densitized to them as I was in the past, given that a lot more happen in SnGs just because of the nature of the game. After looking through my records, I've seen that I average at least one suckout against me per SnG (usually a 3:1 favorite or more), which is probably normal. In fact, suckouts, in SnGs filled with decent, rocky players, are probably the only way players get knocked out, other than getting blinded off.

Besides, karma is karma, and last week, in a live tournament with 15 others, I lost the first one when my KK lost to A,J when she spiked an A on the river. The second, however, I won, after flopping two straights and two two-pairs in the last 10 hands when it was down to five.

Still, I'd love just one week when I don't have any.
Good luck with that.

• • •

Turkey. Mashed potatoes. Rolls. Yams. Crab Rangoon.

My brother always served the Rangoon with his Thanksgiving dinner, and that's my favorite part.

Given that the Chiefs are playing the Broncos that afternoon, I don't think we'll be playing Scatagories (fun for the whole family) this year.
The news of that is better than pumpkin pie.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Unsettled: Update

Well, it's a start...

Now I know this isn't QUITE the score that Iak just had. His is just a smidge more impressive. However, given my last post, and all that talk about feeling unsettled and all that, well, it's almost as if a box fairy decided to come to our house and unpack for us.
She unpacked my brain, that's for sure.
I raised with air many times, remained aggressive and yet not stupid, and used the good luck that came my way (and to be fair, there was quite a bit of it) to the max and took this down.
A new me? Maybe. It's not like I was a soft little twinkie before I started to change my style a bit. But, yeah, I'm feeling better about mixing it up now.
Ironically a cash game got me started for the night. I had KK, two called my raise, the board came Q,10,6, two diamonds. I bet the pot, and a guy raised me 3xs the pot. I thought for a bit and folded. I folded after my frustrating hands for the past hour, when Full Tilt was deciding to kick me in the nuts again and again and laughing merrily all the while.
He showed me A,A.
It reminded me that I am good at making pretty good laydowns, and that helped my confidence a bit.
OK, afterglow over. Be patient with me. Even the small victories count for something. They sometimes, after all, lead to $12K scores.
Right, Iak?

Friday, November 17, 2006


Although our lives are slowly, painfully, being unpacked from our cardboard boxes — if I need something, there's a 3-1 chance it's actually available now, although still more often than not, the object sucks out and I can't find it — I still don't feel comfortable.
It's exactly where I am in my poker game.
Poker, as in life right now, isn't automatic anymore. Calls have become tougher, bluffs seemed forced and my range of starting hands now appears to wider than the average American's plate at a Western Sizzlin buffet.
It's been a year since I started playing poker online for real money, and in that year, I quickly developed a tight, occassionally aggressive game. It's certainly not a bad game to play when you're starting out on the .25 NL tables and the $5 SnGs. But in the last month, as I've moved up in SnGs and played the cadre of rocks at Full Tilt, I've come to realize that I wasn't outplaying the others in the last year as much as I did outlast them. I never made any moves, bluffed only in tournaments and sporadically at that and rarely played anything beyond the top 20 percent range. And I'm ashamed to admit it, but I rarely thought about position.
I know that I'll never be an aggressive player, nor do I want to be. But what I don't want to be is predictable, and I'm afraid that my game, to anyone not playing three tables, fantasizing about Hiliary Duff and chatting on Yahoo, is far too predictable.
So I'm trying to change that. Occasionally (but not enough), I raise in position with a speculative hand. Occasionally, I bluff when no one wants to take the pot. Occasionally, I'll pretend I have an A, when in fact, I may not! How sneaky!
Results have been mixed.
Unfortunately, playing looser, apparently to that inner poker player who tells me what to do, means making looser calls, and while I've caught more bluffs lately, I've also made some eye-rolling payoffs.
Thanks to Fuel, who has helped me think about things other than the cards, and to Iakaris, who is providing more than enough inspiration on how hard work pays off (and having the brain of three journalists like me don't hurt neither), I'm trying to improve my game.
At times it's paid off. At my home game last week, a game filled with good players, they had no idea where I was for the first time in two years and I won a lot despite an overall lack of quality cards. Other times, suhc as last night in the DADI, results have been not all that impressive.
I know that in three months, I'll be grateful that all that work from the move gave us a better life.
I just hope that in that same time, I'll feel the same way about poker.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Go go go

We heard the heartbeat today at the Doctor's office.
Number two appears to be coming along nicely at almost 12 weeks.

And his heart rate was 166, or about what my heart goes when I'm running a 5K, the hardest thing for me to do because of the intensity of the race.

Atta boy (or girl)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Top 10 thoughts now that we're seeing the light

10. I'm so out of sorts right now. Where's this? Where's that? It's like hunting for eggs on Easter, only there's no fucking chocolate to reward you for finding something, only a sinking feeling as you realize now you have to find a place for it.
9. Poor Jayden. Our 16-month-old is addicted to Little Einsteins, and Comcast doesn't carry Playhouse Disney, so we can't find it anymore. After quite possibly the worst temper tantrum ever thrown by someone his age, we are rushing out to Target tonight to get a DVD for the upstairs living room, as the DVD player was downstairs in the new, "surround-sound" basement that my wife will probably get around to hooking up in three months.
8. Why can't I do that? I'm a retard when it comes to stuff like that. Seriously. I was proud of myself for simply figuring out how to hook up my X-Box, a VCR and a DVD along with our cable to our TV by using a splitter.
7. Aren't these "Top 10" formats lame? At least I'm posting in this incredibly chaotic time.
6. I'm still playing poker. Bodog continues to be the site of choice, even though it's my third favorite site of the three I play on, but I'm winning there too much to stop. The players just aren't that good, especially at Omaha, and I'm getting good hands to boot.
5. Can you get high from the smell of cardboard boxes? Maybe Pot Committed can answer this one, if she recovers enough from her Amsterdam trip to recognize the English language once again. At least her writing hasn't suffered.
4. We heard coyotes howling outside our new home last night. Cool. We're a little farther west from the center of Greeley than I thought.
3. The mountains look full of snow already. I hope I can eventually get up there to enjoy it.
2. Our new bedroom is purple, and I've just decided that has to change by this spring.
1. Good luck to everyone playing blogger tournaments and the Full Tilt stuff this week. I hope to join you.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Top 10 thoughts now that we're in our new home

1. Man, we still have a lot of crap.
2. I've seen enough boxes.
3. Maybe by next month we can use our garage.
4. Where's our mailbox?
5. A 9 on the river against my KK? (Oh, wait, sorry, that's a poker thought, but it does demonstrate how my week in poker has gone).
6. Jayden, stay out of there.
7. High speed, wireless Internet is wonderful.
8. Lots of water pressure in the shower and a big tub in the bathroom. What else could I want?
9. Ouch.
10. Home game tonight. I really need it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Top Ten thoughts during the move

10. What the hell is that?
9. Do we really need that?
8. Goddamn we have a lot of shit.
7. Where's Jayden?
6. Oh, he's in a cardboard box.
5. Wow, my arms are about to fall off.
4. I can't believe I have to work Election Night and then get up at 6 a.m. to close the next day.
3. Thank GOD the truck is all packed.
2. *(&^(*((&9.
1. We move to our new place tommorow. Now the real fun begins.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The day after


Ow ow ow ow ow.


Stupid half marathon.

P.S. We move starting Tuesday. I hope I can move after we move.

P.S.S And I lost a $85 pot when my set of 10s lost to AA when villian got his A on the turn.
So that didn't help either.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Half a marathon, one big goal

Shivering in the cold and surrounded by hundreds of runnings stoned on adrenline, I allowed myself a moment to dream.
8:30 would be nice, I thought.
Runners don’t really measure races in a whole time. They piece the seconds and minutes together and talk about their pace per mile. Running is designed to be a consistent motion, as efficent as a Detriot factory line or a McDonald’s during lunch hour.
If you run anything beyond a 5K, as I was doing Saturday, it’s especially important. Imagine motoring your car off the line (Rev on the Red Line, as Foreigner put it) and then screeching to a halt. You’d be seeing your mechanic by the end of the week. Your joints aren’t much different than a car. If you jump between 7:05 and 9:30, you’ll grind your joints to dust, and you simply ain’t finishing the race.
This would be my second half marathon Saturday, around a lake and through some woods to the finish line we go. In May I ran my first, a triumph that left me proud just to finish. This time I’d be looking for something more. Now that I know I can finish, I told myself, let’s finish strong.
An 8:30 per-mile pace would do just that.
Three years ago, I don’t even remember why I started running, but I did. For years I was in good shape, climbing all the while, with dozens of peaks already under my belt, but I never ran. It seemed, quite frankly, too painful. I could always bike 25 miles and barely break a sweat, but whenever I tried running even a mile, I was always left gasping for air and clutching my side as if a little goblin was stabbing it with a pitchfork.
I finally entered a 5K for something fun to do on Thanksgiving and was proud when I finished it at an 8:40 pace. Not bad, I told myself, never expecting anything more.
But being a journalist has taught me that sometimes you don’t change. Sometimes life changes you. And for a project that would be one of the most challening and rewarding stories of my life, a story on a man who was an elite runner before being diagnosed with a rare kind of cancer, I showed up one night at a running group coached by a local God of Running and the owner of a shoe store in town, Doug Bell.
Bell is a guy who started late but now runs 15-minute 5Ks even though he’s in his mid-50s. He owns the national indoor mile record for the Masters division. It’s something insane like 4:49.
So he’s an impressive guy, but in order to be that good in such a demanding sport, you have to be positive and believe in yourself at all times. And as it turns out, there’s a reason dozens of runners show up for intervals, what amounts to running torture sessions, on Wednesdays - Doug’s passion and encouragement rubs off on others. In fact, after only one session, he broke through my cynical barrier of self-doubt, and I bought into it. I started showing up every Wednesday and running the same torture sessions with guys (and gals) who could be my father or mother and were good enough to kick my ass anytime they pleased.
My times dropped at an alarming pace, and with it, my weight. I was never fat, or even chunky, but I did develop a bit of a gut. Suddenly I found myself at my high school weight and running times that I never thought possible, even remotely possible.
Saturday, three years later, I was a true runner, a guy who wasn’t a world-class or even a state-class runner but an elite runner nonetheless, a guy who could beat 99 percent of the population and finished in the top 10 percent of any race.
Still, I always doubted myself and was usually shocked when I did better than I thought. When I ran 6:10 in the mile this last time, in October, I was stunned. I continued to doubt myself, or at least think of those times as flukes, the result of a good meal the night before.
When the gun finally sounded, I turned on my brand new iPod Shuffle and got going.
The first mile always requires as much mental toughness as the last two, mostly because everyone takes off as if his or her shorts were on fire. I forced myself to believe in my own goals and my own pace and ignore the others.
It worked.
Sort of.
When I looked at my GPS, I was stunned, again, to find me look at 8:05 for a pace. And I told myself right then that I would run at the pace that felt good, rather than the pace I thought I should be running.
That takes belief in yourself because you have to know that you’ll have enough energy to finish. And finishing, as always, without walking or crapping out, is the most important thing.
The race continued to go well. I stopped once to dump my top layer and a second time to dump my water backpack. A stopped a third time to down a gel. Other than that I ran smoothly and was never tempted to stop.
By the time mile 12 rolled around, I was in pain. My hips felt like cinder blocks, my knee bitched at every step and my ankles felt stretched, as if I had just gotten out of a dungeon.
And I decided to pick it up.
When I looked at my GPS, I was running 7:15, and it felt good. My iPod had crapped out (in fact, I’ll have to send it back after talking with Apple), so no more Haste the Day, Brand New Heavies, Jamiroquai, Audioslave, Into Enternity, Testament, Gnarls Barkley and others to give me the energy I would need.
I would have to rely on myself.
When I crossed the finish line, I put my head into Kate’s shoulder and just sat there. I was utterly spent.
Then I looked at my time.
You can dream big, like winning the World Series of Poker, having twins or being handed the keys to a Porchse after you smash your Toyota into a tree.
And you should.
But it also helps to dream little goals, like running a time you never thought was possible,
Dreaming big is how we somehow seperate ourselves from the daily grind.
Dreaming of small goals, and then somehow trusting myself, leaving the doubts on the course and acheiving them, is how I free myself from it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Mommy, where's Daddy?

Doesn't this smack of a Deadbeat Dad sort of sleeze, sort of a "Here's an X-Box game son see you in three months I'll miss you a lot now I have to go bang my stripper 17-year-old drug-addled girlfriend" feel to it?

Fuck you, Pokerroom.

Pokerroom raised me as a poker player. I played in a weekly home game just with friends and happily chased inside straight draws until I started playing poker online for fun. I played on Pokerroom because it was Mac compatible, but it was also a damn good Website. Even today I'd say that. It was far better than Party Poker, that's for damn sure, and I loved how you could play it anywhere (even at work!) on the Web.

When I finally reached $1 million in play money, I decided to start playing for real money and played a ton of $5 six-handed SnGs. I believe I played about 80 on that initial $20 deposit before losing it. I read a ton of books, used my birthday money to deposit again, and now I'm a winning player with a pretty decent bankroll.

What strikes me the most is the fact that pokerroom doesn't HAVE to leave, just like Daddy doesn't have to suck, either, yet it is because it's just easier that way. "We're sure gonna miss you!"

Yeah? Fuck you. Just like the son who turns to his more caring step-fathers and uncles, I've moved on to Full Tilt, Poker Stars and Bodog. I"ll hang with them forever and never visit Pokerroom again. And if this all shakes out and Pokerroom, cap in hand, wants my love back?


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

It's not the game, it's the limits

That's it. I'm playing more Omaha.
.5/.10 Omaha, that is.
$25 profit from last night.
I basically broke even at Omaha before last night playing .25 PL Omaha, which I considered fine, given that the game is very, very cruel. You have a K-high flush? Someone has the A. You have a full house? Someone has a better one. You have a straight. The river just blew it up.
And yet that's also what makes the game so much fun.
But I also played far too tentatively. If I had a set I would still check if more than one person was in the hand, convinced that someone would draw out against me (and I was usually right).
At .5/.10, I felt comfortable to play a lot of hands, since Omaha is more about speculation and draws than simply waiting for pocket pairs, and I felt comfortable enough to bet the hands hard if I did, say, hit my set.
Plus the players are much worse at that level. Someone really thought they could use all four cards on the board if they had it.
I loved it.
I'm adding a .5/.10 game to my two .50 NL tables I play every night. Late last night (yes, I took my kid trick or treating, don't worry, the highlight was the house giving out bottles of booze for the adults), I was playing Omaha at Full Tilt, and I lost to a higher flush, a higher full house and a higher straight. Plus both my two pairs lost (as I expected them to).
And that cost me $2.
I love that game.

P.S. Bodog Omaha at .25 is basically the same thing. Just a tip.

P.S.S. See you at the Mookie tonight. I'll be the one bragging about tiny bottles of Jack Daniels.

P.S.S.S. Was anyone else a little disappointed that the WSOP and ESPN didn't think we could handle watching a final table of HORSE and so switched it to NLHE? All ESPN talked about was how hard it was to play all the games and how cool it was that all these players struggled...and then showed us NLHE the whole time.
I was enthralled with the players, and I loved the two-hour broadcast, but geez.