Raise or Fold:  A Year of Risky Business

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A HORSE Tale: Or, Chivalry is Not Dead

…Which, I suppose, is the only possible explanation for the outcome of last night's best of five heads-up HORSE tournaments. This was a rematch to give your loyal correspondent a chance to redeem her pride after having previously gone down in shameful defeat.

Alas, I am not so vainglorious as to have taken screenshots of my brilliant plays/suckouts or victories. So you'll have to take my word for it that it went: win, loss, loss, win, win.

We can only conclude that Sir Rakewell felt very, very sorry for me and decided to throw this round of matches, having every confidence that he could win the next series handily (for best of three), or failing that, that he could come back and crush me the two after that (for best of five).

What could possibly go wrong?

[Postscript: I feel I should add that these games are so insanely entertaining that any right-thinking society would make them illegal just on the general principle that their citizenry should not be having so much damned fun.]

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Running Bad

Running bad is a lot like a very specific kind of nightmare.

We all know that invisible brick walls are relatively rare. Once in a while, though, you are walking along perfectly competently, making progress on your journey, and **WHAM** you stride face-first into an invisible brick wall. Upon impact, it snaps temporarily into visibility, and it generally has some kind of label on it like "bad beat" or "cooler." (Occasionally it's marked "stupid play," but those walls are usually semi-transparent, rather than invisible, and if you're paying attention you notice that kind and climb over or walk around them.)

In any case, you stanch the nosebleed or bandage the cuts, ignore the black eye, and carry on. You get back on the right path and you pick up some steam. You may even be jogging a little. There's a pleasant breeze, the sun is shining, and all is right with your world.


It happened again. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on down the road.


You start to suspect that there is a construction crew deliberately building invisible brick walls exactly where they know you are going. The walls are fiendishly designed and strategically placed to catch you exactly in mid-stride and face-first. Other people seem to know how to avoid them. Other people seem to miraculously find the gaps in the wall and slip right on through.

After the fourth or fifth such collision, not only are you a bloody mess, but you are also a nervous wreck. It's hard to march boldly forth when all your recent experience doing so has resulted in high-impact injuries. You start to suspect the presence of walls that simply aren't there. You become more tentative; you cover less ground. But eventually you gird your loins, settle your mind, and step out in faith once again.

And it will be just when you are persuaded that it's finally going to be smooth sailing from here on out (how many walls, can there really be? the path can't be -all- walls, after all!) ~ the coast is clear and you're running swiftly downwind ~ that you will once again **WHAM** smack headlong into one of those stealth walls.

But this time, you'll be sure it was your fault. You should have seen it coming, somehow. You should have proceeded with more caution. You should be inching your way forward by feel, maybe with a blind person's cane, not trotting along like a vacationer without a care.

In short, you SUCK as a traveler. Stay home, for god's sake. You just don't have what it takes: you are wall-prone.

Remember, it's only a nightmare. Just a bad, bad dream. There is no conspiracy. There's no extraordinary density of walls on your path compared to anyone else's. And besides, those bruises add character to your appearance. Next time you'll know better, right?

The clear archway cut through the ordinary, run-of-the-mill wall, that passage through the entirely visible plain brick wall, is actually **WHAM** sealed with invisible bricks.

Oops: too bad for you.

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Q and A: Is Poker Academy A Good Way To Learn?

Faithful reader Anonymous asks:
"I was wondering how much Poker Academy contributed to really understanding the game, rather than [what] can be gained from playing low-limit online poker?...Also do you still play Poker Academy?"
PA was very helpful in the early stages of my learning. It was good to be playing with other players who were also trying to learn and took the game relatively seriously (given that it was for play money). Low-limit play for real money at most online sites is generally tougher, though ~ especially at the relatively small number of sites that still accept US players.

Studying (not just reading) good poker books is really important. It's also very helpful to spend time playing live with other players who are trying to get better. I have yet to look into online video training, but I know others find it useful. It is difficult to improve one's poker game without investing a lot of time, effort, and ~ eventually ~ some money too.

As I'm now trying to assess whether I can earn a living playing poker, I play very rarely on PAO (and then mostly to hang out with poker friends). I need to spend my poker-playing hours somewhere where I have at least SOME CHANCE of making actual money!

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Thursday, March 26, 2009


The ability to monitor one's own behavior and modify it as needed is one key attribute of a good poker player. It's also a signal attribute of successful and happy human beings in general.

For an example of this in action, read this from Bad Blood.

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Be Not Afraid (part 1)

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
—Frank Herbert, Dune, 1965
Unmanaged fear is probably the single most dangerous psychological obstacle to winning at poker. And a life governed by fear is deeply destructive to an individual and—if widespread in a culture—to civil society as a whole. If you let it, fear will destroy your game and maybe even you as well. Learning how to recognize, experience, and yet move beyond your fear is essential if you are to be a successful player.

The impulse of fear is useful when it helps us accurately identify dangers and prepares us to respond in constructive ways. But decisions made under the sway of fear are far less likely to be good ones. Our biological fight-or-flight reflexes are often wildly inappropriate for the contexts in which they are triggered in modern life, and this is especially evident at the poker table. When adrenalin pumps through your bloodstream, when your heart races and your hands shake and your bowels liquefy, when you have the vital urge to flip the table in rage or curl up in a fetal position underneath it, you are unlikely to be considering, say, the choice between leading out with a value-bet or check-raising as coolly and deliberately as the situation warrants.

Fear comes in many guises and manifests itself in many ways, some considerably more subtle and insidious than the basic glandular reaction to an obvious external threat. What are you really afraid of?

Are you afraid of losing (and there are so many kinds of loss to consider)? Are you afraid of looking stupid? Does the demeanor or the playing style of someone at the table scare you? Are you fearful that you will lose control? Are you frightened that your time at the table will cause others to judge you immoral or actively dislike you? Are you terrified that, when all is said and done, you might actually be a winner? (Then what?!?)

I'll be addressing each of these questions.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Poker Laughs (2)

(This one definitely comes under the heading NSFW. Do not click the link if you are uncomfortable with profanity.)

I revisited this hilarious movie today as a tonic to help me recover from last night's suckoutage fest.

The first time I watched it I literally laughed 'til I cried. If you haven't said something approximating 80% of these sentences at some point, you don't play enough poker.

[Update: I was inspired by this brilliance to return to an earlier rant of my own and give it the animation treatment. While I cannot aspire to the genius of the original, perhaps you will find this mildly entertaining.]

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Hey, Sis!"

Well, that was quick: we have our reader-recognition passphrase WINNAR. And it is no coincidence that my dear brother-from-another-mother Bastin came up with the obvious solution.

A little backstory is in order. When I first started learning to play poker, I bought Poker Academy software to practice my game. I hacked around a bit with the 'bots, but then quickly discovered the online component of the package, and started playing for the earned play currency (PAX). It didn't take me long to discover who the real competition was.

Bastin has sat atop the leaderboards at PAO for a very long time. I would chat with him while playing or railing and came to discover that, despite wildly divergent backgrounds, we had many intellectual and artistic interests in common. Despite a couple of years' difference in age, we decided we had been separated at birth; I started calling him "bro" and he started calling me "sis." People who didn't know any better often assumed we were actually related.

About a year after acquiring the software, I went to Las Vegas to meet up with a bunch of fellow Poker Academy Online enthusiasts. I finally met my bro Bastin face-to-face and found him as cool or more so in person than online. (This is actually a dismayingly rare thing, in my experience.) I am so pleased to be his honorary sister.

I like his suggestion for those sentimental reasons, and because it echos but inverts the 2+2 "Sup bro" convention. So if you think that you're sitting at a table with me, and want to make yourself known, throw out a "Hey, Sis!" If it's me, you'll get a "Hey, Sis!" or "Hiya, Bro!" back. Everyone then gets to exchange knowing looks without necessarily directly discussing poker blogging.

Ooo secret codewords! I love them! It's like being eleven again!


Month 7: Nothing to Write Home About

I just realized that I failed to summarize Month 7. This is partially because it wasn't terribly interesting, and partially because I think I'm still a little shell-shocked from the losses of Month 6. Who wants to look at the numbers when the numbers are nothing but bad news?

Still, you can't take yourself seriously as a poker player without looking hard at your numbers. Going "la la la" and pretending that reality is other than it is… well, that's a recipe for failure both personally and professionally. So here's how Month 7 went.

It went weakly. I averaged a 10% profit on the money I put at risk, in both cash and tournaments. So I made money, but not much, and certainly not enough to be viable as a sole source of income. That's way too close to break-even.

Even harsher: I only recovered about a third of what I lost in Month 6. The only "consolation" there (and it's not much) is that I simply did nowhere near as much playing in Month 7 as I did in Month 6, and the total money I wagered with was only two-thirds what I put at risk in the previous month. It's hard to make a big recovery if you're not playing as much or for big enough stakes.

By contrast, Month 8 is off to a relatively strong start (of course this means next to nothing). In fact, this first week is the best first week I've had so far. This month will include a few days of my next trip to Las Vegas, although not the whole trip. If historical patterns (again, perfectly ridiculously small samples, but anyway) hold up, I ought to do well this time, as I seem to alternate between substantial wins and losses in Sin City. I suppose I should note that I'm actually well ahead overall on money made in Las Vegas ~ despite Month 6.

I've decided that I'm going to try an experiment for the rest of Month 8. I'm putting in place some win-capture and stop-loss rules for cash game sessions at casino-level stakes. If I am up two buy-ins, I will cash out and either quit for the day or take an hour-and-a-half break. If I go through two buy-ins, I will stop for a minimum of four hours at a casino, and for the day if I'm at home. In AC, I failed to get up from the table when I had the urge to lock up my profits while substantially ahead, and went on to regret it. I know poker is one long session, really, but one's mental condition and psychological state have a tremendous effect on how one plays (okay, maybe it's just me), and positive reinforcement (booking a healthy win) is the best way to keep me on track. Resilience is important, no question, but I do much better if I approach the table feeling less beat up.

Someday, perhaps, I'll be less vulnerable to this kind of emotional weather, but until then I might as well try everything I can to maximize the time I'm playing in a good frame of mind.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Two Novelties

I had my very first reader-recognition moment tonight. About an hour into a 1/2 session, the young lady two seats to my left suddenly asked me, "Do you blog?"

I allowed as to how I did, in fact, blog. (Is there an uglier verb in the English language? I'm not sure.)

She said, "I wondered if it was you. I came to your site through the Poker Grump." Over the course of the next hour and a half, we chatted about bloggers and poker in the DC area. I'm embarrassed that I spent so much of the time we played together complaining about how card dead I was (EPICLY card dead, in fact, but still)... sorry Katie!

It was hugely fun for me to know that it is, in fact, possible for people to put the pieces together and identify me at a poker table. And it continues to amaze and delight me that anyone bothers to read what I write in the first place. Thank you all!

The other new item is far, far more mundane, but nonetheless constitutes a revolution in poker attire and comfort for me. Just before I left for AC, I went shopping for a pashmina shawl/scarf. I finally found one that was large, soft, and affordable at Loehmann's. It's a lovely pale neutral color, which goes with just about everything, and it is the ideal climate-control accessory for sitting in a casino playing poker. It can easily be adjusted for various degrees of coverage and warmth, it can serve as a hoodie or even provide a burka-like total eclipse for those all-in moments (if you want to be dramatic), it is lightweight and stylish. I am completely and utterly thrilled with it, and I expect it to be my accessory of choice in casino-wear. Ladies, and fashion-forward men, take note!

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Rant, A Complaint, and An Observation Likely To Have Consequences

The rant:

It infuriates me that hotels charge paying guests extra to use the internet (wirelessly or otherwise). It makes me feel nickel-and-dimed; it makes me feel chiseled. The internet is NOT a luxury, these days. It's a utility like electricity or water. I want my internet and I want it priced into my room. And since my room is comped, I want it free. Making me pay $11 every 24 hours is price-gouging and it annoys the holy living hell out of me.

The complaint:

The last couple of times I've stayed here the room has been entirely devoid of bath towels. Fortunately, this time I noticed it before I found myself dripping wet, standing and casting about helplessly for a towel after a shower. This time there were also very few hangars in the closet. A call to housekeeping remedied the situation, but seriously, how hard is this stuff to keep track of? It just feels negligent. It suggests that management and employees just don't sweat the details. Aren't they looking to retain and recruit guests during economic hard times?

And now the poker-related material, an observation likely to have consequences:

A new dealer comes into the box at the 2/5 table. His skills are mediocre, but he keeps the game moving and seems pleasant enough. Then something happens that shocks me: a big hand develops, it gets heads up, and the winner—who already has a huge stack in front of him—drags a monster pot. The dealer pushes it to him, pats the table, and says, "Good hand."

"Good hand???"

Did I hear that right? Did the dealer just congratulate one player at the table for beating another player at the table?

As the winner is stacking his chips, he does it again: "Nice hand." The victor finishes stacking the loot and tosses the dealer a toke. "Thank you very much, sir. Well played."

I am aghast. It now looks to me as if the dealer was trolling for the toke. About five minutes later, I win a decent sized pot. As is my custom, I push my toke to the dealer on top of my cards as I pass them to be mucked. No "nice hand" comment for me!

Another fifteen minutes pass, and the exact same scenario develops with the previous winner. He takes down another juicy pot. "Well done, good hand." Pause. "Nice hand." Toke. And we move on.

As soon as this dealer was pushed, I went to speak with the floor. I am friendly with most of the staff at Harrah's, but I particularly enjoy interacting with Tina, who is competent, funny, and—this is key—a little scary. I like her a lot, and I trust her judgment. I told her what I had witnessed, and that the congratulations alone were problematic, but if they were being used to elicit tokes that was even worse. Her expression darkened and she assured me she would handle it. I experienced approximately one millisecond's worth of sympathy for the dealer who winds up on the wrong end of that disapproving look.

[Update: I was taking a bath after I wrote this post, and happened to look up and see... an entire rack of nice fluffy towels that I had previously failed to notice. So I take back the part about the towels, this time anyway.]

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Poker Laughs (1)

In a previous lifetime, I had a weblog where I occasionally posted things I ran across that made me literally laugh out loud. (This was, I hasten to add, well before LOL became a common element in an entire generation's vocabulary.)

And so, without further ado other than a wink and a tip of the hat to a certain other blogger's more sober and educational "Poker Gems," I give you the inaugural entry for "Poker Laughs."

Today's edition is brought to you by Julius Goat and is entitled "The New Donkey Quiz."


Perils of the Poker Lifestyle, cont.

As you know, I keep vampiric hours.

Some of this comes naturally to me: I have been a night-owl all my life. Almost all of the sunrises I've seen as an adult were at the end of my waking day, not the beginning. And now that my work routinely takes up a large portion of the hours of darkness, I find I enjoy having some time at the end of my workday to wind down before going to sleep.

This effectively means that I am trying to go to sleep right about the time that the rest of the world is getting busy. And they tend to do it remarkably LOUDLY.

This morning, for example, my sleep was shattered by the demolition project going on in the backyard of my across-the-alley neighbor. We are talking hydraulic jackhammers and roaring earthmovers. Simply impossible to sleep though, as the sounds are a combination of extremely high volume and erratic interval, making them both highly disruptive and unpredictable. I defy anyone to remain unconscious through this fracas, short of already being in a vegetative state.

I dozed and awoke—heart pounding and adrenalin pumping as if I were going to have to fight for my life—multiple times before giving up all hope of further slumber. It is no fun to start one's day in a state of physically prompted rage, especially on inadequate hours of sleep.

Now I know why Superman needs his Fortress of Solitude. I bet it's really quiet there.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

I had almost forgotten...

...how pleasant it is to win.

I went out tonight to my B League tournament series with a somewhat fatalistic attitude: "I'll play my best and get destroyed, ho-hum, what else is new." I certainly didn't leave the house with a song in my heart or gladness of spirit. I was going to work and I expected to have another soul-crushing night.

Instead, I played my best and things went just fine. I took third of 21 in the tournament, and added more points to my top score on the leaderboard. There was also an impromptu small-stakes cash game afterwards and I walked away with five times what I bought in for. (The game was soft AND I got hit, big-time, by the deck — which, let's admit it, is pretty much an ideal combination of circumstances.)

It is a measure of how far I have to go as a poker-player that this outcome has left me in a mighty fine mood. I confess that I haven't yet reached the nirvana state which would allow me to experience perfect equanimity in the face of the both loss and victory. To be honest, tonight I'm quite content to just enjoy a little success.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On the Road Again

I'm heading to Atlantic City again this Saturday for couple of days. This is a bus junket, so happily I won't have to negotiate traffic or drive while tired. All the more opportunity to concentrate on playing teh pokerz.

I've also booked my trip to Las Vegas in April; I arrive one day before the Tax Man and leave a week later. Key goals for the trip include stunning the tournament world with my brilliance in the Deepstack Extravaganza at the Venetian and lining up a place to stay for the month of June. (Gosh, I wonder which one will be easier to accomplish.)

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The Punishment Does Not Fit The Crime

Because I have taken the solemn of oath of No BBS, this post will be remarkably detail-free.

All I can tell you is that my crime apparently consists of playing the best poker of my life, and the punishment is to consistently lose large sums of money.

I wish I could tell you that there was some kind of meaningful lesson to be learned here, but the only thing I can do is to keep making good decisions and hope that someday, somehow, they are rewarded all out of proportion to their merit (so as to make up for what I'm going through now).

As if poker were ever about justice.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Disparate Results

I played in a deepstack tournament last night that celebrated my A League's 500th game. (I have only been around for the last couple of years, but the league has a much longer history that antedates my participation.)

This game featured a larger-than-usual buy-in. There were sixteen participants, and I finished second. As with any tournament, to make the money I needed to get luckier than I deserved a couple of times. But also, with a few minor wobbles, I played every hand as best I know how and I remained focused throughout. I came back from a short stack though a combination of good fortune, patience, and fierce selective aggression.

This is in stark contrast to my performance during the WSOP subscription series with essentially the same bunch of players. You would think that if there were a causal relationship between the size of the stakes and my likeliness to go off the rails, that that correlation would manifest itself in these bigger buy-in games as well. But, for what it's worth, I won the two previous such games that the A League has held.

Now, obviously, in both cases the sample size is small. We've had 8 WSOP-series games and 3 bigger buy-in tournaments. It's an impossibly small number from which to derive any statistically meaningful information. It could all just be coincidence and variance. But something about this pattern is nagging at me, and I'd like to see if I can figure out whether there's anything more to it than a normal distribution of results.

One other thing worth mentioning: the deepstack structures (one with antes, one without) that we use for these more expensive games really go a long way to making skill a larger component of the outcome. I was impressed last night by how long it took to thin the field. We started with 10K in chips, had 30 minute blind levels, and didn't get down to 10 players until after nearly 7 hours. This group's average skill-level has also improved dramatically in the two years I've been playing with them. The level of play compares favorably with that I've encountered in big tournaments in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

If I ever manage to succeed in a major poker tournament, it will be at least in part because of the many hours of experience I've accumulated playing against tough opponents in my homegrown poker league. I am fortunate to have been able to participate in a well-run organization with other players who are dedicated students of the game.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Put To The Test

Must. Not. Tell. Bad. Beat. Stories.

La la la la la la.



Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I call BBS!

I hereby take this solemn oath: I will never deliberately tell a bad beat story again. Ever.

Here's why:
  1. I don't like telling them.
    • They keep me living in the past and distract me from paying attention to what is going on right now, in the present.
    • They promote or prolong tilt.
    • They reinforce feelings of victimhood, which are never helpful in poker.
  2. No one likes hearing them.
    • The only reason anyone ever voluntarily listens to a bad beat story is because they assume it means that you'll reciprocate and they'll get to tell theirs. Stop the madness!
    • All bad beat stories are essentially the same, and can be summed up in five words: "I got really screwed, again." If you must tell a bad beat story, for the love of god, take the guidelines laid out in this article to heart.
If someone asks me how I went out of a tournament, or why I lost the third buy-in in a cash game, I'll oblige with details of the hand. But I'll only mention the specifics if asked.

You can tell me your bad beat story, if you must. But part of me will not be listening, part of me will consider it a foible of yours that you are determined to share every last detail of it with me, and part of me will be comparing your pathetically inadequate bad beat story with my extensive personal archive of horrible beats that I've suffered and finding it totally lacking in terms of quality, quantity, and depth of despair-engendering elements. I will make sympathetic noises, and I may actually even be sympathetic, but I will not gush.

Let's not enable one another: put an end to BBS!

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Atlantic City Half-Light

I'm going to have to do some hardcore self-assessment when I get home. I may also need to seriously consider finding and employing a really good coach. I don't know whether what I'm experiencing is primarily variance having its way with me, my weaknesses as a player finally showing through, or the product of a bad case of "monsters under the bed" syndrome.

I need to step back and take a cold, hard look at my play and my results. And I'd like to recruit another pair of more objective eyes to assist me in that review. Any suggestions as to who might fit the bill for that will be gratefully received. I'd also be interested in sweating an accomplished and successful player so that maybe I could get some fresh insights into the game.

Continuing as I am now is not going to result in a viable, sustainable professional career. I must improve; I must keep learning; I must do better.

[Update: I came home and filled out my spreadsheet. It turns out that I actually made some money on this trip. And if I had skipped the tournaments, I would have come home with quite a respectable profit. It helps that I did very well in my last session in AC.]

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

BBV Cardgrrl Style

Beat: Blogger stopped updating my site.
Brag: I figured out how to fix it!
Variance: All six readers rejoice.

Beat: I left my phone charger cable at home.
Brag: There's an iPod dock in my hotel room!
Variance: I can now bore everyone with the details of my tournament without worrying about running down my phone battery.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bad Performance

I once again donked out of my WSOP subscription series tournament with another lousy result. I am utterly embarrassed by how badly I'm doing in these games.

I am going to have to do some serious thinking about why my play has deteriorated so notably in this particular series. There's no getting around the numerous mistakes I've been making.

I could have overcome the bad luck I ran into if I had managed to play better. Lack of sleep and exercise could be contributing factors, but again no excuse is really adequate to the degree of suckage I've exhibited so far.

It's a good thing I won my B League game on Thursday; otherwise, my morale would be awfully low right now. As it is, I must get some rest, and get my head together for my foray to Atlantic City tomorrow. Because I cannot allow myself to be bent out of the shape by this latest debacle.

By the way, major blog posting is likely to be light to negligible while I'm in AC. I will, however, try to keep updating via Twitter.

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Put Down The Duckie, Or, Everything I Ever Needed To Know About Poker I Learned On Sesame Street

"You'll never find the skill you seek until you pay your dues."

If you want to be a great poker player, you're going to have to make sacrifices. You're going to have to get out of your comfort zone. You're going to have to shed habits and circumstances that are soothing and reliable, but are holding you back. You're going to have to identify things that work great for you in your life, but are leaks and impediments at the poker table. And once you figure out what those things are, you are going to have to ruthlessly eliminate them from your game.

"You know, I really love my duckie, I can't bear to part with him!"
"You don't have to lose your duck. You can pick it up when you're finished!"

[Tip o' the hat to a certain grumpy player who certainly knows how to let go of the squeaky toy, when necessary.]


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Q and A: A Poker Player Getting Comped? What's Up With That?

Faithful reader phrankguy1 asks:
I'd be interested to know how a poker player gets completely comped rooms at AC casinos (Harrahs again?) on weekends. Do you play table games, etc?
I get this question a lot.

Once in a blue moon I'll run $20 through a slot machine. Or I'll sit at a $5 table game with $50.

But, honestly, it's a rare thing. I do it because someone told me that I'd never, ever get comped a room if I didn't.

I'm not so sure, though. I am currently a Platinum member at Harrah's and wouldn't be surprised to make Diamond level on poker play alone this year. When I go to a casino, I play A LOT of poker. I mean, ridiculous numbers of hours. On a four night trip I can easily rack up 70 hours of play. I think the stakes you play at matter too. On the other hand, on my last trip to Vegas I only played about 16 hours at Harrah's properties and they still comped my whole five-day stay. Go figure.

Most of room comps come from corporate headquarters, or through my casino connection folks. Once or twice, however, the poker room has arranged for me to extend my stay, gratis.

It has occurred to me to wonder, too, whether they are more generous to female players than male. I don't know why that would be the case, but I suppose it's possible.

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More Travel Ahead

I'm making two trips to AC this month. The first, this coming weekend, is primarily aimed at participation in the WSOP Circuit Event at Caesars on Sunday. I'll be driving myself there and back for that one. The other is just the standard bus junket on the weekend of the 21st. In both cases, my hotel is completely comped.

I'm also planning another trip to Las Vegas in April for a Round 2 stab at the Venetian's Deepstack Extravaganza. Some people might call me a glutton for punishment, but I refuse to believe that I'll run really, really bad two trips in a row. (Of course I might, but I'll burn that bridge when I come to it.) From a cursory exploration, it looks as if I ought to be able to secure a very reasonable airfare; I need to work with my casino folks to see what they can do for me in terms of lodging. My timing on that one is flexible, although I'd prefer it include a weekend.

In May, I'll be making a family-related trip to Guadalajara, Mexico. I don't suppose they have poker in Guadalajara (which is probably just as well). I think that may be enough long-distance travel for the month. We'll see how I feel about AC when the time comes.

And, of course, the current plan is to spend the month of June in Las Vegas.

When I write it all out like that, it sounds like quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing. I wish I had more options closer to home.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

How often does this happen?

Pokerstars table

I made a big raise pre-flop, and then checked the flop.
My opponent moved all in. Tough way to lose.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Warm Cardroom on a Cold Night & A Good Bluff Gone Bad

One could be forgiven for believing that the D.C. area is not well suited to a person trying to earn a living playing poker. The fact is, really, it is far from ideal. There are a limited number of cash game venues, and little choice in stakes. The environments are hardly uniformly safe, comfortable, or pleasant. And if you want full-scale security and legitimacy, those are only to be found at least a three-hour drive away, in Atlantic City.

It is for that reason that I am very grateful for the existence of the Crime Scene Game. Its location is convenient to me. It is entirely safe, well-run, and pleasant. The stakes are at a good level for my purposes: juicy enough to be worth the time, and modest enough to ensure a steady influx of players willing to put their money at risk.

And where else are you going to find a full table of players when snow is blizzarding from the sky, while the entire region is paralyzed by a winter storm warning and in full DEFCON 5 panic shut-down? I wandered into the game at 8 pm tonight, and it didn't wind down until 4 am. (I drove slowly and carefully home on mercifully empty but unplowed roads with fluffy snow piling on top of the black ice.)

This evening's session recapitulated my classic story arc: bought in, was up half a buy-in, lost it and was back to even, and then got felted. Re-bought. Went completely card dead. Folded a lot. Folded some more. Continued to fold. Won a couple of pots. Won a few more pots. Value bet the bejesus out of the reliable calling stations. Busted the guy who never believes I have a hand. Cashed out up a buy-in and a half. (For you folks who find cash ROI statistics meaningless, I'm making 11.5BB/hr. so far in month 7.)

I did have one especially interesting moment, which happened during my period of utter card-deadness. One of the better players is an older guy of Ethiopian extraction. He's a pretty canny player, and is usually quiet and consistent. Tonight, he'd had a drink or two, and he was louder and more contentious than usual. I didn't know that alcohol was responsible for his change in demeanor (I learned this after he left), but it made it more difficult for me to know what to expect from him.

He opened the pot in mid-position for a 4xBB raise ~ average for this table. It was folded to me in the big blind, where I had 3 4 spades. Believe it or not, this was one of the more promising hands I'd seen in several hours: hey, it was suited and connected. Obviously I should have folded. But, I was frustrated and bored, and I thought I could make money if I connected with the flop, so I called.

The flop was 9 9 8, with two clubs. Missed me totally. But I thought it likely that it had missed my opponent entirely too, and I took a stab at the pot. He called, but the way he called persuaded me that he had indeed completely missed. The turn put a red Q on the board. I checked, and my adversary bet out. It was a weak bet, and I was once again convinced that this card had not helped him at all. I thought for a moment and called. My plan was to bluff and represent the flush if a club appeared on the river.

Which it did, a 5.

We were now looking at a pretty substantial pot. I led out for about half that pot and awaited my opponent's decision. He hemmed and hawed for quite awhile. He cut out chips for a call. Then he cut out chips for a raise, all the while studying me. Then he restacked them. He was sitting in the 1 seat, to the dealer's left. He nudged his cards away from himself, toward the dealer. The dealer swept the cards into the muck.

I felt myself visibly relax: he was folding, and my bluff was good.

He said: "Hey, I'm not folding!" His cards (which were still identifiable) were retrieved from the muck and returned to him. He started to think again, and someone asked for the clock.

And then he called.

I believe it's likely he saw my movement of relief and that either led directly or contributed substantially to his decision to call. I'm pretty sure he was originally intending to fold. He is not a particularly adventurous player and he called me down with Ace high on a paired and flushing board. He announced, "Lady J was playing the player, not her cards."

I didn't say anything as he dragged the pot, but later I spoke to the dealer, who had of course been sure that he was folding, which was why he mucked the cards in the first place. I couldn't tell whether or not I'd been angleshot or otherwise faded; I still don't know if I should have objected at the time.

My feeling was that I have a sufficient edge in this particular game that it's okay for them to see me get a big bluff snapped off from time to time. But I sure wouldn't have minded winning that pot either.

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The Skeptic Is Not Easily Made A Convert

The Mighty Deuce-Four Makes  Wheel
My opponent in the cash game had open-raised 5xBB in late position, but he was always raising and we were shorthanded. I was in the big blind, it folded to me, and I thought to myself: "Self? What the hey, let's call and see what happens. We could make a lot of mobneys if we get lucky here."

(Say, isn't there a blogger out there somewhere who enjoys playing the deuce-four?)

I checked the flop. He checked behind.

I checked the turn. He checked behind. I had a warm, fuzzy feeling ~ was I about to become an acolyte at the altar of the mighty deuce-four?

The warm, fuzzy feeling bloomed into joy on the river. If my opponent was slowplaying an Ace, I was going to get paid. I led out for 2/3 of the pot. The other guy snap-called.

I showed my wheel. He mucked. Later, he said he had KK. I'll admit it, it was sort of fun going runner runner there. I think maybe the deuce-four is a tool of Satan, but I'm not sure.

For what it's worth, the same opponent had the last laugh of the night on me. We were playing shorthanded when I opened for 3xBB on the button with AA. Small blind folded, big blind called. Flop was 2 Q 2. Villain checked, I made a potsized bet. Villain called. I started to worry. Turn is a blank. Villain checks. I check behind. River another blank. Villain leads out. I think the bet is about two-thirds of the pot, and I reluctantly say "call." I know I should fold, but he could be bluffing and I just have to see the damn deuce.

Of course he has the 2. He also has the Queen, for a flopped boat.

The problem is, I misread his bet. In fact, he used two large-denomination chips, not medium-sized ones. I would never have called had I realized the actual size of the bet, but I was tired, and not paying sufficient attention. My first response was a knee-jerk: "I'm not calling THAT! I'm never calling that!!!" But of course I had said "call," so I made good. He dragged a substantial pot, and I felt like an idiot.

I barely scraped together a profit for the evening. I bubbled the tournament, and then managed to win back my tourney entry fee in the cash game, plus a little extra. (A very little.)

Still, except for that one hand with the Aces, I was very pleased with my play. My head was clear and stayed clear the whole evening. Once again, I attribute this to having worked out earlier.