Raise or Fold:  A Year of Risky Business

Writing and playing poker as if they were activities worth doing well.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Remind me to re-read this...

Desires come in all shapes, sizes and forms. Denying any of them is a sign of weakness. Controlling them is an indication of personal strength. Exploring them demonstrates courage. Being uncomfortable with your desires reveals your humanity and is never something to apologize for--ever. —The Poker Shrink
That's the final paragraph from this post about men and women, most of which I find inaccurate (or perhaps I should say: most of which differs radically from my experience or that of my friends and acquaintances). Perhaps the author is exaggerating for effect?

That one paragraph, though, is a doozy, and in my view entirely redeems the preceding four others. It's well worth thinking about what it might mean in the context of poker.

It's also worth thinking about what it means in the context of everything else.


It Is What It Is

(I'm in the mood for a good full-throated rant.)

The world is infested with fatuous, empty, pointless catch-phrases. Some of them have been foisted on us by commercial interests (think: advertising). Others come from pop-culture: movies, music, late night TV shows. Still others seem to have seeped out of the memetic petri dish that is high-school.

I don't know where "It is what it is" came from, but I can assure you I don't care. All I'm really interested in is that it should sink back into the primordial ooze of idiotic tautological redundancy from which it emerged.

Could there possibly be a more vacuous phrase?

I don't think so.

But it's not enough that the sentence is a waste of the breath required to utter it. No. It is also required that the speaker be enunciating it with an air of smug spiritual superiority.

Clearly you, the lucky recipient of this gem of wisdom, are insufficiently evolved to be able to appreciate its karmic, even zenlike, essential truthfulness. You are probably distracted by transitory emotions of rage, despair, resentment, or frustration. You should probably go meditate until you are capable of repeating "It is what it is" as a veritable mantra revealing the depths of reality.

It is the jewel in the lotus, man. Om!

There was a time when hearing "It is what it is" at the poker table would instantly launch me into high orbit tilt. No longer. Now I just conjure up a mental image of the individual who emitted it strapped to a chair, being forced to listen to Deepak Chopra for all eternity. This brings a buddha's smile of ineffable delight to my lips, and all is once again right with my world.

(There, I feel better now. How about you?)

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 26, 2009


That would be me.

Couldn't hit a flop. Couldn't make a draw. Couldn't bluff without running into a monster made hand.

And I did something I rarely do: I went on super monkey tilt. I rebought twice and lost it all. The last half hour was textbook HORRIBLE play. Just godawful.

I should have gotten up and left after the second rebuy was gone. My failure to do so is indicative of a huge lapse in discipline.

I am embarrassed on my own behalf. Seriously, no one who responds this way to adversity should even be thinking about trying to earn a living from this game.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Coach Me, Dude!"

The following hand transpired at the Crime Scene Game last night.

The context:

I had arrived late to the game, after winning my A League tournament. I will admit to being in an expansive mood as a result of having some extra cash to bring to the table. I sat down, bought in for my usual amount (about 66BBs), and promptly lost most of it. REBUY!! I bring another 50 BBs to the table and resolve to play a tighter and more disciplined game. By the time we pick up our story, I am back to break-even.

The table is its usual loosey-goosey self, except for two easy-to-spot rocks. I have a goofball on my right who I know will play any two suited, especially if one of them is a broadway card. Most of these people have played with me before and know that I'm generally TAG, with solid value hands, but that I am also capable of firing multiple bullets with air. I rarely, however, show down junk, and my raises are usually respected. If I'm getting called, I need to be wary.

The hand:

I'm on the button at a full table. The action arrives to me with seven limpers already in the pot. Seven (no rocks)! Without looking at my hole cards, I'm already convinced that I'm going to make a big raise and hope either to take the pot right there, or to wind up heads up with decent odds for pretty much any two cards of my own. I peek at KQ suited in spades, and cheerfully pop the bet to 7xBB.

I get two callers. One is an okay player in middle position, and immediately I start to consider possible ranges for a limp-call (medium-small pair ~ set-mining, AJ, A10?). I think he thinks I'm on a pure button steal and that he's ahead of my range, which is more or less right. The goofy loose player to my right thinks for a few seconds and then announces: "This is the worst call in the history of America!"

The flop comes: 2 2 3 rainbow.

The action goes check check to me. I make a half-pot continuation bet, figuring that maybe they'll give me credit for an overpair, but that in any case a) decent player is unlikely to be trapping (not his style, and this flop will have missed his range) and b) loose guy has shown no interest.

Decent player folds. The goofster comes back over the top of me for all his chips.

I am, of course, done with this hand: check-raise FTW! "Did you really call me with A2?" I ask as I muck.

"I told you it was the worst call in the history of the country," he responded, as he flipped over a suited 2 5.

My take-away:

On some level, I genuinely admire the audacity of this speculative play. (Alas, they never seem to work for me anywhere near as often as they work for others.) From a tricky, thinking player, it would have given me great pause, and I would have had to use it to significantly modify my understanding of his or her game. Such a player, however, would probably not have check-raised all-in, but rather tried to betsize so as to induce a call.

As it is, however, I simply look forward to having this gentleman to my right for many, many games to come.

Labels: ,

Q & A: Why the Heck Do You Use ROI to Report Cash Results?

Faithful reader Anonymous queries in the comments to a recent results post:
I've always had trouble understanding the "Results" that you give in this blog.

I understand tournament ROI, but what the heck is cash ROI ? ROI is not a metric that I've ever seen used in cash poker and seems completely usless. I mean, if you buy in for $1000 and win $100 your ROI is 10%, but if you buy in for $500 and win $100, your ROI is 20%, but you won the same amount!

I assume you made that up as a way of giving results without actually discussing how much you won? Or am I missing something?
I started calculating and using cash game ROI for a few reasons, only a few of which may be good ones.

When I began this project, my primary objective in record-keeping was to determine if I could make a living playing poker given my starting bankroll. First: could I be profitable? Second: if so, how profitable? And third: would I be able to support myself given the small stakes and modest bankroll I began with? How would poker-playing compare to other ways I might choose to invest my money? (For example, my money is doing a heck of a lot better in my bankroll ~ right now ~ than it would be in the stock market, or indeed most typical investment vehicles!) I don't think ROI is completely useless as a metric. It gives me a general idea of how much money I have to put at risk, in the games I play, in order to achieve a certain monetary return.

It is true, as Anonymous suggests, that I wasn't particularly eager to reveal publicly the exact size of my bankroll, to always be specific about the stakes I was playing at, or to detail the absolute dollar amounts won or lost. Despite the common notion (probably derived from TV broadcasts that talk about lifetime tournament winnings) that poker players' results should somehow be public information, I prefer to keep these matters private unless I have a good reason to share them.

And, to be frank, I was also clueless about the need to keep statistics that would help me track the information that is most useful in analyzing one's cash game results across various stakes, e.g., BB/HR. (I would point out, however, that the same concern is true for tournaments as for cash games: ROI tells you NOTHING about actual profits. All I have to do is win one larger-buy-in tournament and that makes up for a whole lot of losing at lower stakes in ROI terms, if I lump them all together.)

Recently, I have begun tracking winrate statistics for my cash play, including stakes and time played per session as well as profit/loss results. If ~ after I have accumulated enough data to be worth analyzing ~ they reveal something interesting or meaningful, I may eventually write about them.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The car repair folks have just informed me that my two recent flat tires are the result of deliberate sabotage. This is pretty upsetting news.

I don't think of myself as a person likely to inspire the kind of rage that leads to repeated slashed tires. I have to wonder, though, if this is random hoodlumism or a new and distressing form of occupational hazard.

I would never have imagined that any of the people I play with could do such a thing. In fact, I still don't. But I can tell you this: when I play in the CSG tonight I will NOT be parking where I usually do.


By the Numbers (A Post Mortem)

I finally steeled myself to go look carefully at the numbers from Month 6, to figure out exactly how much of a hit I took in Las Vegas, and where and what were the biggest losses.

To my surprise, it wasn't quite as bad as I thought. Bad enough, but not apocalyptic.

Yes, Month 6 was my second losing month, and it was more than three times worse than my previous losing month (Month 3). As in Month 3, all of my net losses were in cash games. I've only had one month (Month 2) where I lost money playing tournaments, and that was last time I played MTT tourneys at the Venetian, when I didn't cash at all.

This time, playing three deepstack tournaments and a satellite, I broke even. My one little 11th place finish covered all my tourney costs. Making money on MTTs is hard, and I'm actually heartened by this analysis. My play in these games was good, and if just a couple of hands had gone the way of the odds, my results would probably have been a whole lot better.

So that means that I really bled out at the cash tables, right?

In a nutshell: yes. What happened was that I had about a ten buy-in downswing in a very short period of time. After the first day, which booked a profit, I had only one winning session, which is a pretty appalling record. One of the joys of no-limit is that a losing session can mean that you played for stacks, sometimes multiple times, and lost. And that's what happened with me. I got felted not by a slow drip-drip of attrition, but when I had all my money in the middle for large pots.

Again, at the risk of being accused of special pleading, I don't think I played terribly. I generally got my money in as good as you can hope to in a game that is ~ let's face it ~ called "gambling" for a reason: probability is not always your friend. And, as I've admitted previously, my play definitely suffered as time wore on. I take full responsibility for at least two or three buy-ins' worth of bad decisions. But had I landed on the upside of a few of the gambles I took when I was a big favorite, I could easily have come home six or seven buy-ins to the good.

So even though my profit graph has another unsightly kink in it, I do not want to stop playing for stacks as a big favorite because of these results. I am back on the horse and sitting tall in the saddle. Giddy-up!

Halfway through my year, it looks like this:

Tournament ROI: 58%
Cash ROI: 20%
Overall ROI: 21%

Bankroll growth: 33%

Not pro material yet, for sure. But I'm still learning.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Total Information Control

Poker is infowar.

The person who gathers and correctly evaluates information about opponents while simultaneously emitting as little useful information as possible has a huge edge. These two tasks are theoretically separate, but in practice one almost always generates information for others while trying to obtain it for oneself. (The classic "see where I'm at" bet is a great example of a less-than-optimal approach to the problem.*) And sometimes we give away information by trying NOT to give away information. This stuff is tricky.

At the poker table, Big Brother is indeed always watching. (Well, okay, to be fair, not always. Sometimes Big Brother and his buddies are drunk off their asses and just donking it up, paying attention only to their own cards ~ if that ~ and nothing else. Or maybe they're all too stupid or inexperienced to see the value of learning about other people's play or disguising their own. Need I explain why these are the tables you always want to be at?) It is your job to be a better observer than Big Brother, while giving him absolutely nothing helpful to work with.

I will point out that, although quite difficult, TIC is much easier in poker than it is in the rest of life. Which is to say: in the rest of life, it's well nigh impossible. Arguably, this is a good thing, although it may sometimes prove embarrassing, inconvenient, or awkward.

Without further ado, a little case study for your amusement...

When I began this blog six months ago, I was bathed in the warm waters of virtual anonymity. There were a very small number of friends who knew of its existence. Everyone else who dropped by was someone who had an interest in poker and no particular reason to have heard of or met me before. I quite enjoyed having my own private sandbox to build my little castles in, and I felt utterly unselfconscious about what I wrote. Sort of a Garden of Eden pre-apple environment, I suppose. Security through obscurity.

It turns out, however, that unbeknownst to me, my walled garden was breached in mid-October. A writer for the Boston Globe wrote a one-paragraph blurb mentioning this site. And here's where it gets good.

A woman in Boston read the blurb. Her thought process then apparently went something like this: "This woman lives in D.C. and plays poker. My single son lives in the D.C. area and is a fanatical poker player. I must get the two of them together! I will alert him immediately!" And so she did.

The son looked up Raise or Fold. Saw the picture in the sidebar. Read a few posts for confirmation, and immediately realized that he knew me already.

Single Son is the Esteemed Commissioner for my A League.

But it gets better! The Commish shared his discovery with three other players in the A League. For months they followed along, saying nothing, while I happily prattled away here about this and that, including my progress in the league. I thought I was operating incognito, and they cheerfully conspired to let me keep right on thinking so.

This was entirely reasonable and, in retrospect, pretty damned funny. Good for them! (Hoist and re-hoist for me. Oops! :-) )

And then, unexpectedly, a person with a whole lot bigger readership pointed the poker-blog-reading public in my direction. The very next morning my voicemail and email contained several messages of the "Aha! Busted!" variety. I found myself making a bunch of phone calls, hoping that people wouldn't be too cross with me.

One of them was to an A League player, another woman, whom I consider a close friend. It had always been a challenge to me to NOT mention my project to her. Pause here to imagine my mortification when, in an attempt to pre-empt her hearing about it first from another source, I make my confession only to have her say, "Oh, I know all about it. I've known for months."

Oy. It seems we all have pretty good poker faces!

To my great relief, just about everybody to whom I've either "come out" or been outed has been really positive, generous, and supportive of both my writing and my adventure. I consider myself very fortunate indeed in that respect. I think that there are still a fair number of people I play with regularly who are NOT aware of my secret identity, and to the extent I can, I prefer to keep it that way. But, should you wish to let me know that you know, by all means drop me an email or tap me on the shoulder one evening and we can share a laugh at my expense.

So that's where things stand now. It somewhat changes the intended shape of my project. In my fondest dreams, I hoped I would finish the book, cash deep in a big tournament, get a publishing and/or sponsorship contract, and then do the big reveal: TA-DA!

Reality to Cardgrrl: "Not so much." Total Information Control ~ it is, in fact, a pipe-dream.

Oh, and I still have to finish the book, cash deep in a big tournament, and get those contracts. So, yeah, not THAT much has changed at all.

*If you're wondering why this is not a good idea, strategically, consider this familiar nugget of poker wisdom: "Every bet you make should be designed to elicit a call from a weaker hand or a fold from a stronger one." (Can anyone help me track down the origin of that one?) [back to top]

Labels: , ,

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Game Selection FTW

Well, perhaps the curse has been broken. For once, I was the one putting the beat-down on an opponent, when the card that gave him his full house also made my King high straight flush. I felt a pang of sympathy, really I did, as I dragged the pot.

Apparently it's a good idea to play in games where you're going to be lucky. The trick is just to spot which ones those are. Tonight, for me, it was the Crime Scene Game. I had to take a cab there and back, since my car is once again out of commission (aagh! don't get me started!), but it was definitely worth the taxi fare. At least I made enough to pay for the car fixes, with some left over to make a meaningful contribution to the bankroll reconstruction project.

It was a good night's work. And, I must say, it is really, really nice to not lose.

Labels: ,

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Some Solace

I managed to cash in an online Razz tournament this evening. (Thank god for Razz.) And I won a satellite seat which I promptly traded in for the tournament dollars. And then I won a single table sit'n'go, largely because (mirabile dictu) my Aces didn't get cracked.

Other than that, the astounding suckoutage continues in both cash and tournaments. My favorite being my bustout from the 100K earlier tonight when my AK went down in flames to A2, as my opponent flopped the wheel. Spectacular!

Just when you think you've seen every possible way to lose when massively ahead, the poker gods come up with new and creative ways to mess with your mind.

I think I'm going to revert to playing nothing online but sit'n'gos and Razz tournaments for a good long while now. I'm feeling pretty punchy from my recent results in cash games and hold'em MTTs, and I might as well concentrate on my roots until my confidence returns.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Era of Reconstruction

Let the rebuilding begin.

I am pleased to say that I've played in two cash games since my return and I've booked a profit in both. Mind you, it will take many, many more such sessions before I begin to make a dent in my losses from Las Vegas.

Still, I'm reminded that it's not impossible to win, and ~ at this point ~ that's welcome validation.



Can you take a licking and keep on ticking?*

It's an important question, because if you're a poker-player you will get beat. A lot. Sometimes more than seems statistically probable. But this is the way it goes.

You're playing a disciplined game. You're at the right stakes. You're not making irrational decisions. The table is exploitable; you've done your due-diligence and are clear on what it will take to win. You go and do what it takes.

And you lose.

Breathe, refocus, rinse and repeat.


Take a break, have something nice to eat, talk it over with a poker-playing friend. Shake it off. Return to the table.


Get a good night's rest. Read a little strategy. Go over your hand histories and your play. Learn something and reset.


Make a self-deprecating joke. Do the math on what your overall EV for the last few days would have been over a large sample size. Remind yourself that no small children or animals were harmed in the making of this downswing. Resolve to continue playing as best you know how.


Avoid the people who can't help but display, with gleaming sharp teeth showing through "just-kidding" grins, their share of Schadenfreude over your recent results. Remind yourself that you are 'rolled for just this sort of eventuality. Keep in mind that your goal is to both survive and prosper, and that you will not be able to prosper if you play with scared money or see monsters under every bed.


How ya doin' now? Hunh? Still playing your A game? Still making your best decisions? Still getting enough good food, good excercise, good sleep? Take a few days off, that's the ticket! Come back refreshed and relaxed.


Do you have the mental toughness to continue with this? Are you emotionally prepared to overcome a prolonged period of negative feedback that is legitimately unrelated to the quality of your play? Do you have reserves of good humor, optimism, and equanimity that will keep you from compounding your bad run with bad play, stupid life choices like -EV gambling, alcohol or drug abuse, and the neglect or destruction of valued personal relationships? Do you know how to leave your work, as it were, at the office? Do you know how to bend with the high wind of variance so that you will not be broken?

When they say that poker is a tough way to make an easy living, this is what they are talking about. Anyone of average intelligence can learn enough poker strategy to be a break-even or modest winner at modest stakes. Truly, anyone. But being a long-term winner requires a combination of personality traits and discipline that are rarely innate, but must be cultivated and sustained in the face of adversity. And this is why teh pokers is not ez, and why most people, in the long run, lose.

Go back to the game. Accept that you might lose. Make the right choices anyway.

*There's a highly-skilled online tournament player whose screenname is "Timex." I have no doubt this motto is the reason why.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lord of The Fields

The Poker Grump
Behold: His Royal Grumpiness, Sir Rakewell, K.G.F.

The Grump was mystified by how many people approach him at the tables and greet him with kind words about his blog. It struck him as odd that such a high percentage of his readership seemed to make their way to Vegas and then somehow run across him.

Google Analytics (which many bloggers use to keep track of traffic to their sites) does not log RSS feed hits. I pointed this out, and suggested that his estimation of reader numbers was probably off by at least an order of magnitude. It made me happy to see him re-calibrate his idea of the extent of his reach in the poker blogging world. I'm glad he now has a better sense of just how popular his writing is.

No one could be more deserving of a wide audience. I am honored to call him my friend.

Labels: ,

How Can I Lose? (Or: How Vegas Kicked My Ass ~ Hard ~ Yet Again)

Let me count the ways!

1: The one-outer. For example, the straight flush card on the river to beat my King high flush. Or the 8 on the river to give my opponent quads to beat my Jacks full.

2. The two-outer: The flopped King to give my opponent the trip Kings that cracked my Aces with all the money in pre-flop.

3. The three-outer: one of three remaining 9s in the deck (other than the one I held) which allowed my opponent to draw into the (gutshot) higher straight.

4. The four or five-outer: My favorite being getting it all in for my tournament life with AA against QJ with a J on the flop. And another on the river.

I have never in my life taken the quantity and quality of bad beats that I did over the last five days. The only merciful exception (mostly) was the $550 Deepstack Tournament on Saturday.* After surviving the straight flush mentioned above ~ which took 2/3 of my stack on the 11th hand of the game ~ I fought my way back and managed to finish 11th of 232. I played my very best game for 12 hours, and if my final call had held up (AQ v. K9, Q and 9 both on the flop, 9 on the river for my opponent's win), I would have arrived at the final table ready to contend for the whole thing.

It's impossible to get so completely crushed for so many days and so much money without starting to suspect that there is something really wrong with one's game. I estimate that I made four or five really bad plays that probably account for 20% of my losses. (And most of those decisions were made at the tail end of the trip, when my confidence was pretty rattled and my game less than optimal.) The rest of it? Well, all I can say is that I think Variance made me his BITCH on this trip. I got my money in good and got destroyed over and over.

And if you think I'm exaggerating (and who could blame you? doesn't everyone attribute their failures to bad luck?), I can tell you that I had a witness to at least some of the carnage. I am not making this shit up.

In sum — Christians: 2; Lions: Eleventy-Billion.

All I can say is, thank god I wasn't counting on my poker income paying the bills for February. Because this month is going into the books well and truly in the red.

*Actually, to be fair, I should note that I also won a one-table satellite on Friday which covered my Saturday buy-in. I didn't encounter any bad beats in that game.

Labels: , ,

Friday, February 13, 2009

Fish in the Desert

...That would be me.

To say that I have not profited in the last twelve hours would be a tragic understatement. In fact, I have sustained my single biggest one day loss in poker EVAR.

Not pleased.

I make no excuses. A better player than I, faced with the same adverse circumstances, would have lost less. I hope I managed to learn something along the way, but at the moment I'm not sure of that.

Despite the day's results I'm feeling remarkably cheerful. I attribute this to two specific factors: I am doing work I love to do; and I had delightful company alongside me while doing it.

Tomorrow is a new day and I have some rebuilding to do. My plan is to play cash on Friday and invest in the big buy-in Deepstack tourney on Saturday.

Status: bloodied but not bowed.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Back at Headquarters

A pleasantly uneventful flight, whose main drawback was commencing at the (to me) ungodly hour of 8:30am, has deposited me once again in Las Vegas. I have checked into my hotel, and am now eating a perfectly composed Niçoise salad at the Terrace Pointe Cafe at the Wynn. Why the Wynn? Because it has FREE WIRELESS and my hotel room at Harrah's ~ in this day and age, imagine! ~ has no wireless at all. (Next time I'll just pack my router; my laptop doesn't have an ethernet port.)

Actually, there are a couple of visible pay-as-you-go networks, but I trust those about as far as I can throw them. They could easily be sites just fishing for credit card numbers.

The other mortal outrage is the charge for using the hotel's fitness center: $25 a day! Excuse me, but I find this to be extortionate, especially at a hotel that cannot be described as high-end. I may have to resort to power-walking up and down the Strip instead, just on general principle. I really don't appreciate being nickel-and-dimed to death, especially at a time when these places are hurting for business ~ although I suppose that's probably why they're doing it.

I stopped by the Venetian to pick up the schedule and structure sheets, and to inquire about early registration. Apparently you can sign up for the next day's tournament after 9pm the night before. The tournament director told me that they've been getting fields of about 300, with the final table generally playing out on a second day. Apparently last night's table decided to chop when 2am rolled around, for about $9900 each. Not bad for a day's work.

I was once again overwhelmed by the Venetian's "house stink," which permeates the whole facility. I may even be slightly allergic to it. I don't know why they find it necessary to make the aroma quite so powerful. By contrast, I'm now enjoying the apparently unscented Wynn environment.

I'm operating on only about 3 hours' sleep (if that). Since I'm virtually incapable of sleeping in moving vehicles or public spaces, I wasn't able to catch up on the plane. If I can, I'll snag a little nap this afternoon, but the fact is I'm a lousy napper. At the very least, though, I'll lie down with my eyes shut for awhile.

As always when I travel to play, I'm already excessively revved up. Every time I come to Vegas, I see it differently. I'm champing at the bit to discover what this trip will reveal about the place and about poker and about where I belong in both.

Labels: ,

Monday, February 9, 2009

Book A Win

Since successful poker is so clearly a product of one's mental attitude, "running bad" ~ those long, soul-killing stretches of bad luck that frequently turn into bad play to compound matters ~ can become a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.

Despite one's intellectual knowledge that the cards have no memory, randomness prevails, and each session is a new day, it can be well-nigh impossible to avoid the anticipation of impending doom and destruction. When it's been going really, really badly for a long time, sometimes you just need to win.

You know you're not supposed to "quit while you're ahead," especially if ~ rationally speaking ~ the circumstances seem ripe for continued success. You're supposed to stay and keep racking up the mobneys.

Well, now you have permission from none other than the Noted Poker Authority, Ed Miller, to take the money and run when you need to:

"Go ahead and book a win. I know a lot of people think booking wins and setting stop losses is hogwash. But playing top poker (particularly no-limit) requires confidence in yourself and your decision-making. And if you lose seven days straight, your confidence is likely going to be in the can no matter who you are. So if you start a session and you’re up a few buyins after bit, wrap it up. Book the win. And pat yourself on the back. You’ll be more confident during your next session."

Labels: ,

No pressure, right?


Mr. Poker Grump himself, the esteemed Rakewell, has caught me off-guard with an extremely kind and surprisingly *extensive* mention of this blog. To all of you who may have arrived here expecting gems of wisdom and fountains of wit, my humble apologies.

I find myself dealing with an unaccustomed bout of stage fright. My first instinct is to say, "Move along! Nothing to see here!"

Of course my second impulse is to grab each and every one of you by the collar, sit you down, and require you to read every syllable of my deathless prose from now until kingdom come.

So, um, bear with me, okay? I'm going to be in Vegas for most of the next week or so, and am therefore likely to be posting significantly LESS frequently than average. (Perfect timing. I have a knack for that.)

I do genuinely hope some of you will stick around; please don't hesitate to leave a comment or drop me a note.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Usual Suspects

You play with the same people long enough, you pay attention, you adjust and they don't, and you ought to be able to beat them.

I think this is where I am with the Crime Scene Game. I know the regulars. I know how they play. I am rarely surprised, these days, when a hand goes to showdown: I know what I'm likely to see.

Whereas, I know that I am capable of surprising them.

I was under the gun (first to act after the big blind). I made a minimum raise. It folded around to the big blind, who tripled my bet. I smooth-called.

The flop came: Js 10c 8s.

The other player checked. I bet two thirds of the pot.
He called.

The turn was: 3c

My opponent checked. I made a half-pot bet.
He called.

The river was: 9h
My opponent led out for about a quarter of the pot.

The range I put him on, given the action and what I know of his style: a mid pocket pair (66, 77, 88, 99), AK, A10 or possibly AJ.

I raised all-in. I had my opponent well-covered, but it was effectively another pot-sized bet for all his chips.

He rolled his eyes, heaved a great sigh of frustration, and folded.

For which I was very grateful: as I dragged the rather substantial pot, I flipped over my pocket deuces.

I rarely show. I think I pissed off my opponent pretty severely by showing this particular bluff, but since I play at this venue often, I need to sow the seeds of doubt periodically. Ninety-five percent of the time when I show down, I have a great hand. When I win without showdown, I muck. Consequently, I have an extremely solid image. But they all need to know I am capable of the all-in bluff.

So that they'll pay me off BOTH when I have the nuts AND when I shove with air.

...Why yes, thank you, I do believe I'll have my cake and eat it too.

Labels: , ,

Friday, February 6, 2009

LOL Donkaments

Except I'm not laughing.

I once again busted out early of my WSOP subscription series game. I played one hand really badly, and then I ran into two flopped sets and lost a whole mess of chips. I ended up all-in super shortstacked in the big blind with an open-ended straight draw against pocket Queens and that was all she wrote.

I am very annoyed with myself for my tendency to overplay these subscription games. I now need to cash in every one of the remaining four games, AND win at least one (and possibly two) of them to stand a chance at the prize money. It's not impossible but it's a tall order.

I played cash for the rest of the night and did fine. (The group doesn't really have any skillful cash game players.) But in absolute terms, I only made a very modest profit for the evening.

I can't help but think I should be OWNING these games. My only consolation is that my buddy JK is at the top of the leaderboard. He is doing what I can't seem to manage, which is killing the competition. I am simultaneously impressed and profoundly frustrated that it isn't me.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Stupid Call

Sometimes I despair of myself.

It's the second-to-last hand of the evening. So far in this session I've managed to follow a typical cycle: lose a buy-in, rebuy, grind back to even, get up a couple of buy-ins.

Final step? Implode. (Feh.*)

I was right in my read on the flop, I was right on the turn too; I knew I was ahead. Yet I could have folded when my worthy opponent went all-in on the river. I could have folded and retained a meaningful profit for the night.

But noooooo, I went and made the hero call and learned the bad news: the backdoor flush had come in. (Why do other people get to go runner runner for a flush, whereas I can't ever get the one measly card I need for my flush? +grumble, mutter, kvetch+)

Actually, I give myself too much credit by styling it a hero call. It wasn't a hero call, it was an ego call. I convinced myself he was on an end-of-the-night big bluff and I wanted to pick him off. But considering how wet the board was, I had to completely polarize the hand-range I was against as either something very strong or air. The action on the flop and turn meant I was unlikely to be up against complete air. And while I was right that my opponent didn't have any of the hands that were the most probable winners on that board, I should have given more credence to the flush possibility. Maybe if I'd thought it through a little better I could have found the fold.

This looks like yet another leak to be plugged. Apparently I'm a freakin' sieve.

(*It could have been worse. I broke even for the session. But still.)

Labels: ,

Opportunity Knocking?

On my last visit to the Crime Scene Game, the lovely cop who helps run the joint took me by the elbow and urgently steered me into the back room. "I need to talk to you."

You may now picture my blood pressure rising several points as I try to anticipate what deep shit I have somehow gotten myself into.

He said: "TK [one of the few other regular female players; she's also a dealer] is a major actor in putting together a charity poker event coming up in March. She is going to get four free entries into this $1000 game for her participation. They pay great prizes to the top ten, and the winner gets a seat in the WSOP Main Event."

Me: "Wow, that's awesome!"

Him: "TK wants to put together a kickass group. She's playing, and she's giving a seat to JR [the only regular player ~ also a dealer ~ I fear at the CSG] and me. She thinks you have a great style, and JR and I both think you're the best possible fourth. If one of us wins the thing, and goes on to cash in the Main Event, we'll split the winnings four ways. What do you think?"

Me: "I am so in."

Okay, first of all, a potential freeroll to the Main Event? SCORE.

And B, how nice to have been given such a strong vote of confidence by people who've watched me play week after week for months now. I am deeply, deeply flattered by this. TK would officially become my first staker.

You may now picture me doing the excited happy dance.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Occupational Hazards

So far, I've identified two serious occupational hazards for me, as a poker-player.

The first is the negative impact upon my circadian rhythms and social life of the vampiric hours I keep. For example, last night I got home at about 5 am, and didn't get to sleep until around 6 am. I was so exhausted that I unplugged my landline, and silenced my mobile phone so as to not be disturbed. As a result, I overslept a lunch date with my godmother, and had to make a mad dash to the DMV before it closed to get my car registration renewed (yeah, that's another story, involving a $100 ticket which alerted me to the expiration... unlike, say, getting a notice in advance from the city which they're supposed to send but didn't). This week has also featured my having to cancel dinner plans with friends because the tournament I was in ran impossibly long. I am now facing the possibility of the same scenario happening this coming Saturday... I may just skip the game to avoid it.

The second is potentially even more problematic. Last night I absolutely CRUSHED the Crime Scene Game. Sweet, sweet vindication. Played awesome, ran good. It was just delicious. I made a 200% return on my investment, for an hourly rate of 30.5 BBs. Needless to say, this had both a positive impact on my mood and on my bankroll.

Now, you must know this about me: I am not much of a shopper. I'm simply not one of those gals who particularly enjoys shopping; I buy what I need and like and I'm done. I don't buy things as a therapeutic exercise. I am, by and large, a utilitarian consumer (even, I would argue, when I buy higher end computing devices). And yet... when I had my big score at the Venetian, I bought myself a little souvenir trinket at a jewelry store. It was very modestly priced, I love it, and it has garnered much favorable comment when I wear it.

Today, however, after finishing up at the DMV, I found myself at a Christian Barnard store sporting a going-out-of-business sign. Huge reductions. Bargain bling. Long ago, I bought my favorite watch at Christian Barnard, so I thought I'd stick my head in and see if there was anything cheap and appealing. Well, I found and bought for a song a pretty white gold ring of unusual design. At which point I should have patted myself on the back and walked out. But I did not. Instead I discovered the insidious world of Pandora jewelry, god help me. (As a silversmith and jewelry designer myself, I have to bow to the ingenuity of their scheme.) I now own a necklace, a bracelet, and five charms. Gulp. I am going to have to institute some pretty strict guidelines about acquisition of this stuff, because as far as I can tell it's the gewgaw equivalent of crack.

Needless to say, I would never have given any of this fripperie a second glance if I hadn't just had a big payday at the poker table. But that's exactly the point. Income from the poker table IS MY PAY, and not some kind of "whoo hooo! extra money! let's go spend it! yay!" windfall. I positively cannot afford to make a habit of this sort of thing.

Part of me, though, takes a certain rebellious pleasure in this expenditure. For most of my life, I've spent the absolute minimum amount of time and money on my personal appearance, and eschewed with an almost puritan fervor anything that smacked of unnecessary feminine adornment. Yet the further I plunge into the very masculine world of poker, the more I find myself enjoying gussying-up (nice clothes, cosmetics, and now ~ apparently ~ jewelry). I'm sure there some deep, twisted psychological reason for this, but meh. The key is to keep it all in some kind of moderation.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Really Bad Run With Aces

Pockets Aces in cash games have cost me nearly $700 in the last couple of weeks. And each time I've lost with them, I've been 90% or better to win, with all the money in pre-flop. I wouldn't do a single thing differently. I do wish the outcomes would have been a bit more satisfactory. My stats for the month so far would look a whole lot better if AA had held up just one time.

I cashed in my A League tournament tonight. Had I reraised all-in preflop wiith my pocket Jacks in the last stages of the game, I would have foiled the blind steal attempt ~ which then turned into a straight that beat me (as it actually went, my luckbox opponent made a bad call when I shoved on the flop). This was the only real error I made all evening, and arguably it wasn't a huge one, but it was enough to derail my climb up the cash ladder.

You want to make money at poker? Play error-free ~ and run good if you possibly can. (Simple enough, right?)

Labels: ,