Raise or Fold:  Learning (From) Poker

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Joy of Poker

Those of you following along on my tweets already know the outcome of my trip last weekend to Atlantic City: a big steaming pile of break-even.

And you know what? That's just fine with me.

I had a little mini-revelation on this outing. Despite my decision to let go of the pro-poker dream, I was still playing as if my livelihood depended on it. Now, generally, one might think was a good thing. Discipline, etc. And that's undoubtedly true.

But playing professionally is also notoriously a grind. It's especially a grind when things have not been going one's way for a protracted period of time: the bad results are depressing, and bad results often lead to bad play, which leads to more bad results. It's the most vicious of vicious cycles.

My first day was a downer. Lose lose lose lose. Bleah. No fun. Lots of folding, discipline aplenty, then one dubious decision and buh-bye stack. At day's end, I vowed to myself that I would play my A game in the Circuit tournament. My one and only goal was regret-free poker.

And I did. I played for six hours without making a single error. I watched glumly as the correct folds I made would have turned into table-stacking monsters, but I made the right choices. I was colossally card-dead most of the time, and was presented with very few viable stealing opportunities. More than six hours in, I still had a starting stack, and it was shove-or-fold time. I won a few blinds and antes. I folded KJo to a raise and re-raise in front of me and missed the flopped boat (d'oh!). I finally shoved with pocket 8s and lost to AK behind me.

I was now $700 in the hole for the trip. But I was feeling pretty good about the way I'd played in the tournament, and I wasn't especially tired. I decided that, since I was unlikely to be back in AC in the near future, I might as well mix it up in the cash games again and this time try to actually enjoy it. I took $1000 to the table and promised myself that I was going to play well and have fun: no scared money here, no ubernitiness. I brought out my cheerful, social persona. I was going to have a good time no matter how the cards fell.

And I did, oh yes I did.

My hand selection criterion became: will I have fun playing this hand (in this position, for these stakes, against these players)? My folding, calling, betting, or raising criterion: which action will be most fun?

And because I consider winning money more fun than losing, this didn't change my gameplay a great deal. What it did change was my attitude.

I proceeded to play for six more hours, during which time I completely recouped my loss and made a few bucks to boot. I began to remember why I got hooked on poker in the first place. I rediscovered my inner recreational player.

So that's me, now: I'm a recreational player, and that's okay. In fact, I like it! A great psychological weight has been lifted. My little hobby more than pays for itself, plus I get free hotel rooms and food too. And I now have license to play JUST FOR THE SHEER FUN OF IT. Wheeeeee!

Labels: , , ,

Friday, November 27, 2009

Which one is me?

Poker-playing monkeys
My friend JK sent me this photo this afternoon. It pretty much sums up the way I feel about my game at the moment. I haven't posted much lately because all I've been doing is losing and not having a whole lot of fun. (The good news is that the rest of my life is getting more and more interesting.)

I'll be heading to Atlantic City on December 5th, and plan to play in at least one Circuit Event.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Teakettle Room

I returned from the poker room at dawn's early light last weekend to Harrah's Marina Bayview Tower Room 16073. I was exhausted and ready to crash.

Not so fast, Cardgrrl!

Although I was yearning to fall into the arms of of Morpheus, my tender ears were assaulted with this. It was really loud, louder than the recording suggests.

At first, the front desk would not even consider moving me to another room at that hour. I asked, please, if I might speak to a supervisor. No supervisor was forthcoming, but lo-and-behold, another ~ and blissfully much quieter ~ room was found for me right away. I packed and moved in 10 minutes flat.

This is why legitimate complaints are worth pursuing, politely of course.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

August Trip to AC

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

AC Warm-Up

I can't participate in my usual bus junket to AC this month because it's scheduled right before I head to Las Vegas, and that's just too much of a muchness. (How, for example, would I properly perform the Last Minute Laundry Ritual?)

So instead, I'm heading up this weekend, for a three night stay starting Saturday. I'm not particularly thrilled at the prospect of driving with all the summer traffic, but I also wanted to catch at least some of the Saturday night action. I'll be interested to see how busy things are the rest of my stay; I'm assuming it won't be super-juicy, but I would think it'll be livelier than the equivalent days of the week in winter.

I may branch out a bit and play somewhere other than Harrah's at least part of the time, if only for variety's sake. It's comfortable to hang out where everybody (well, regulars and staff, anyway) knows your name… but it might be interesting to go where I'm less of a known quantity for a change.

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Report from AC [Revised]

[Update: This is a revised version of my AC Report, combining two takes from my iPhone footage.]

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 10, 2009

Almost Gone

The Last Minute Laundry Ritual is complete. My little shoulder bag is packed. I even went out and bought the new iPhone so I can video blog if I want (although I have to say I am mightily disappointed by what appears to be WORSE image quality than my original phone). I'm traveling light this time… no computer.

I am ready for Atlantic City. I set out in a positive frame of mind, filled with curiosity about how I'll perceive the competition after my time in Las Vegas. I plan to mostly play 2/5, and maybe one tournament on Sunday.

Expect updates mostly via Twitter.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Up the Coast

I've decided to forego my A League's End of Quarter freeroll tournament on Saturday. I have a very short stack of chips to work with (having qualified by winning a game, and then being out of action for the entire month of June), and the prize pool is relatively small this quarter.

Instead, I'll be heading out on another junket to AC for a couple of nights. Time to revisit the 2/5 game at Harrah's, and maybe even slip over to the Borgata for a few hours to see how it feels playing there. If things go well, the profit potential is considerably higher than I'd likely manage at the EOQ. Since the trip costs me nothing but 9 hours of bus-butt and another couple of nights away from home, it seems like an easy choice. And I can always hope that my orphan stack will manage to survive the blinds and squeak into the money.

Are the good results I've experienced in the last 10 days just variance swinging back (temporarily) in my direction, or have I really learned something as well?

There's only one way to find out.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

You Win Some...

...but not many.

The highlight of my trip to AC was participating in a $300+40 charity donkament with 65 runners. It was chockfull of football stars, but I had no idea who any of them were, except for Mike Ditka (I never played with him). The tournament was half football/charity types and half pros. Seriously, it was ridiculous.

I decided to play my very tightest game and just hang on for the ride. And I ground my way to 8th place, which gave me about double my buy-in. What really chaps my butt is that they ultimately chopped it SIX WAYS. If only my QQ had held up over QK on the last hand... Oh well.

The only other success I had was at the 2/5 table. You'd think I'd have learned this lesson by now. For whatever reasons, my statistics clearly show that I have a positive win-rate at 2/5, and basically hardly at all at other stakes. So, what would you do? PLAY 2/5, right?!?

I hereby resolve to play 2/5 from now on in casinos. I think I play better and the overall variance is lower for me. God knows at 1/2 I've been running like crap. I think big pairs held up exactly ONCE for me on this trip. It is so demoralizing to lose 90% of your showdowns when you get your money in way, way ahead.

I returned home in time to play in the BBT Riverchaser's Monday night tournament on FullTilt, where I managed to squeeze out a third place finish. My plan is to play lots and lots of online multi-table tournaments in the two weeks remaining before Vegas, just to get my head into the bigger field, longer games.

I'd love to win a WSOP seat like some people I know.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 15, 2009

Off to the Air-Conditioned Venue

Yes indeed, tomorrow I head out on another bus junket to Atlantic City. I have ~ as is customary ~ completed the Last-Minute-Laundry Ritual, and have a full array of clean clothes to choose from. Now I will be attempting to go to bed at a sane enough hour to actually get some sleep before the bus's departure at the ungodly hour of 9am.

9AM, I ask you! Don't these people understand that we are gamblers?!? Well, to be honest, most of them are significantly further into the geriatric demo than moi, and they probably go to bed and get up with the sun. Maybe when I am ancient I'll do the same. (I doubt it.)

I was supposed to be heading to Guadalajara, Mexico, this weekend for a family shindig. That trip got cancelled for obvious reasons of health paranoia. I guess I just have to go to AC and get "casino crud" instead. What a shame.

Labels: ,

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!

Labels: ,

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.)

Labels: , ,

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.]

Labels: , , ,

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.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

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.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Day 148: Back at Action Central

Well, the car trauma isn't quite over yet (my turbo charger apparently has given up the ghost). The bad news: I have to bring the car back YET AGAIN. The good news is that it's drivable in the interim and the repair is covered under the extended drive-train warranty. I'm guessing, too, the blistering feedback I gave on a customer satisfaction survey had something to do with my service manager's improved interpersonal skills on this visit.

The best news, of course, is that I'm back in AC. I arrived in the early evening on about 4 hours of sleep, and sat down to play 1/2. My table was a drama fest, and I put into action my new extraverted persona plan.


I saw this hoodie at a supermarket in Manassas, and after cracking up, I knew I had to have it for the poker room. It worked like a charm. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: "The AC Cougar!" I was dubbed this by one of the wags at the table, and baby I WORKED it all night long.

After getting beat up on two big hands (the worst was when I got felted flopping the wheel just as the big blind flopped the higher straight to the 6), I ground it back and ended the evening even. If I'd quit after the second time I misread my hand ~ I guess I was really tired, huh? ~ I'd have come away with a tidy little profit, but noooooo.....

Honestly, the table was so juicy, and so personality-packed, that I hated to call it a night. We had Angry Old Nit. We had Good Player Who Drank Way Too Much. We had Young Gambooly Asian Dude. We had Solid Ex-Marine. We had Internet Guy Who Plays Any Two. There were stupid arguments that required the floor. There were drunken prop bets. And until my fatigue caught up with me, I had excellent reads on ALL of them.

I'm going to play 2/5 this afternoon, if a game is going. And depending on how things go, I may play the daily tournament tonight. I was also able to get Harrah's to comp me an extra night, so I won't have drive home in the wee hours of Wednesday. Score!

Also, and let's hear it for me, I followed through on my promise and went to the gym upon waking up today. My head is fully oxygenated now, baby! Fear me! ROWR!


Labels: ,

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Chips, ahoy!

Yeah, off to AC again next Monday. Not the ideal time, but I don't have a whole lot of wiggle room with jury duty coming up.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day 127: Veni, Vidi, Vici

At the tournament table, at least. (Cash, not so much.)

This latest AC trip was a resounding success, to my boundless surprise, because I ended up doing very well in the tournaments I played. Who'd have thunk it?

On Sunday night I finished first of 45, and on Monday night I chopped the win three ways (for better than second-place money) in a field of 46. I need hardly try to convey the deep level of satisfaction this afforded me. Finally! A little tourney justice in AC.

This tournament is hardly a world-class event, to be sure. The buy-in is $68+12. You start with a 10K chipstack, and blind levels start at 50-100 and go up every 20 minutes. If you go all the way to the end, you'll play for about 6 hours.

My buddy JK came in second in the Monday afternoon tourney, which was great. The glorious thing was that, on the VERY FIRST HAND of the Monday night tourney, I felted the guy who had beaten him out for first. (The guy played K3 offsuit for my 3.5BB raise and lost to my AK on a flop of AK3. Heee hawwww!) Alas, it also fell to me to dispatch JK on a cointoss later in the Monday night game when my 88 held up against his AQ. I arrived at the final table with 25% of the chips in play.

For future reference, here's why you should seriously consider chopping, if a chop is offered to you. In the first tournament, when we got down to 3 and were roughly even in chips, I proposed a chop. Two of us were for it, the third guy, a young Korean dude, was not. So we played on. The other guy, who had been chip leader, got knocked out. Now I'm heads-up with Korean dude, I have him outchipped, and because of his pissy attitude I am totally not interested in chopping it up with him. Three hands later, I've won and he's got less money than he would have had if we'd chopped it three ways. Fool. By contrast, we arrived at a three-way chop agreement very quickly on Monday night: me, another woman, and a canny senior citizen.

It's a good thing I did so well in the tournaments, because I took a beating in the cash games. There were a couple of reasons for that. First, I was relegated to 1/2. There weren't a whole lot of tables running, so I didn't have any choice on table selection, and one of my tables was half regular sharks and half rocks. NO action. The other two times I played were after the tourneys, and I was hopped up on adrenalin and exhausted... not the ideal time to play to begin with. Plus I got brutally coolered about three times. So, meh. Not my best cash performance.

On the upside: it was 1/2, and being down a buy-in and a half at 1/2 is not as big a deal as being down a buy-in at 2/5.

Overall, another very profitable trip to AC. My month is off to a rockin' start.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Once more unto the breach...

...dear friends!

Looks like I'm heading back to AC sooner than expected. I'll be traveling with previously mentioned poker-playing friend and worthy heads-up opponent JK and his visiting buddy.

I'll be curious to see what kind of action there is in the poker room on a Sunday and Monday night before Christmas. I don't have particularly high hopes, I must say, but there weren't a lot of comp rooms available otherwise, so I took what I could get. The company should make up for any shortfall in poker profit.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 119: Wiped

Ooo, I'm so tired. Really, really tired.

It used to be rumored that casinos pumped pure oxygen through their air conditioning systems to keep people awake and gambling. This has been debunked because a) it would be a huge fire hazard and 2) it would cost way too much, and c) it doesn't work. Casinos do a fine job of keeping people gambling using other highly effective behavior-modification techniques.

Personally, I think they lace the air with meth. That's my theory anyway. All I can say is: it would explain a lot.

Like how I seem to be the energizer bunny for days on end, and then two hours after I leave the casino I hit THE WALL and am a basket case for days.


As you may have gathered, I had a profitable trip to AC.

Friday: berry berry good, as previously discussed.

Saturday: Ugh. The Ladies Circuit Event was frustrating. We started with 5000 chips, 30 minute blind levels, antes began at level 5. After the dinner break I had an average chipstack and an M of 5. At that point there were still three tables left and we were already in shovefest mode.

I played my very best poker all tournament long, despite having little to work with, card-wise. I finally got it all in with the best hand I'd seen all day ~ QQ, and lost on the river to AK. That crippled me badly, and I finally went out when the card that made my K9 two pair gave my opponent the runner runner straight. Feh. I was 22 of 176, four from the money. Ten and a half hours of work for zippo.

I then sat down at a 1/2 table and proceeded to not win a bunch more. Just couldn't get any traction. Honestly, I probably shouldn't have been playing at that point, as I was still suffering with this headcold and I was tired from the long tournament day. I didn't do anything egregiously bad, but I wasn't at my best either.

Sunday: Got up and, dig this, went and worked out in the hotel fitness center. Words cannot express what an excellent idea this was. Worked up a sweat, got the blood flowing to my brain, and staved off deep vein thrombosis. I am committed to doing this on every casino trip from now on. Maybe even more than once. I am quite persuaded that the excellent day's results were at least somewhat related to the exercise. I played 2/5 for about twelve hours, with breaks for nutritious meals. I could probably safely have omitted the final four hours, as I went pretty card dead and probably only made an additional $100 in that timeframe. My folding became a source of much complaint at the table. I was sitting behind a pretty substantial stack and they all obviously wanted a whack at it. Which I denied them.

When I am not beyond exhausted, I'll try to post on one notable hand (where I got lucky) and one poker-theory debate that came up at the table.

Two overview points, though. The first is that my live game continues to improve. I can feel it ~ and it's nice to think it's showing up in my results. I am so much more comfortable at the table now, it's marvelous to me. I want to say: I feel like a native in poker land, not a visitor anymore. And second, as a native, I'm enjoying putting into practice the more social persona I discussed a while back. I've had some really enjoyable times chatting with other hardcore poker players at the table, laughing it up or exchanging views. I have "recruited" allies in this way, and it may have saved or even made me money. Regardless of the direct impact on profit, it's made being at the table more pleasurable, and reduced the kind of boredom or frustration tilt that's likely to be expensive.

I finally played again with poker pro F., the man who taught me "never show" three years ago. (I'll share that story with you sometime soon.) He jokingly pretended not to recognize me at first, but of course he ~ like most serious poker-players ~ has a very good memory for people he's played with before, and the circumstances. Today, when I sat down to play 1/2 for a few hours before leaving AC, I gave up a pot to him when I paid him off for the flush I KNEW HE HAD after I made my nut straight on the river. (Leak alert!!!!) Honestly, though, I almost felt like I owed it to him for the advice he gave me way back then, which stuck with me and has served me very well ever since.

Poker tables (like most places, come to think of it) are liberally populated with assholes. There are also some very interesting and really nice folks. I'm enjoying meeting the latter, and tolerating the former is a small price to pay for the privilege.

I LOVE MY JOB. If I could consistently make it pay the way it did this weekend, I could make a career of it.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, December 12, 2008

Day 116: Like Taking Candy From Babies

Wow, I had the most beautiful 1/2 table at Harrah's this evening.

I'm still a sick puppy, with a head full of phlegm like you wouldn't believe, so I decided I didn't want to stress myself out tonight playing 2/5. I wanted to have a nice, relaxing few hours of poker, then retire to my room and get a lovely night's sleep in preparation for tomorrow's tournament. I thought sitting down and putting a big buy-in at risk amongst decent players would not be soothing, although it might be both interesting and potentially profitable. My main thought was: there are going to be a lot of tournament players donking it up at 1/2; why not visit the fish pond and just drop a line over the side?

And so I did.

The guy to my left told me about every single one of his hands. Every. Single. One. He was ridiculously loose and just a catalog of bad habits and tells. He kept explaining to me how he always wins online. "I raise, I bluff, they fold!" Yeah, buddy, whatever. I proceeded to call him down with 10s on a 993 flop despite his massive re-raise. His heart was beating a mile a minute and I knew I had him. He eventually showed AK.

I spotted the rocks, the TAGs, and the mice. I dodged the couple of good players and then basically took everyone else to the cleaners. It was just really, really easy. (It helped, as always, that I didn't get massively outdrawn at any point.)

As a result, I completely covered my buy-in for the tournament tomorrow, my travel expenses, and profited an additional sweet chunk of change on top of that. This means I'm essentially free-rolling the tournament, and I can play without any any money-angst whatsoever, which will be really nice.

And if I bust out, who cares? The poker room was jammed full of people. They were running FIVE TABLES OF 2/5 (which in my experience is unheard of at Harrah's). They even had a full 5/10 table! So if things don't go my way in the tournament, why I'll just mosey on back down to the poker room and play cash all day and night.

The prospect makes me giddy, frankly.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 8, 2008

Day 112: Ungroovy Miscellany

Let's see:

The online debacle continues. I cannot win online at the moment. NOTHING I do prospers. Can't win playing tight, can't win playing loose. Can't win with made hands, can't win with draws. Can't win. Can. Not. Win.

The lack of winning online is annoying.

I played in the Crime Scene game on Sunday and had another of those days that resemble nothing so much as... a day of playing online. Aaaaagh! Again with the not winning.

I console myself mightily with the observation that I am still meaningfully up. I am. I am UP. Nothing can take that away from me. (I mean, other than a serious downswing. Blech.)

It would be nice, very nice, to have one big winning session here before I head to AC on Thursday for the Circuit events. I could use the morale boost in preparation for the battle.

It has always been part of my Grand Strategy to have one substantial live tournament win during this year. The theory is I'll have a much easier job pitching my book to the publishing community if I can point to a high-profile tournament victory. Why would anyone care about my observations on poker and life if I can't win at poker, right? And no one really cares if you are a successful cash player. Tournaments are what get televised, and so they are what people know.

In the meantime, the rest of my life continues to offer up alternately wildly fun and unbelievably idiotic episodes. I am sparing you, my dear readers, the particulars, but suffice it to say that certain gentlemen and certain members of my family are totally batshit insane. (Not at the same time. You know what I mean. Stop that!)

Nevertheless, and despite the various aggravations, I would be remiss if I did not emphasize that my life ~ ramshackle as it may be ~ is far more enjoyable now than it has been in many, many years. I am still not doing everything I want to be doing, but at least I am doing SOME of the things I want to be doing and many, many fewer of the things I don't want to be doing. This is a net win, bigtime. (Every time I decline to a do a job I don't want to do, I feel like superwoman. If I'd known saying "no," was this fun, I'd have started doing it a long time ago.)

I do have the occasional moment when I wonder if I am completely out of my mind myself. There is no doubt that this year is a slightly eccentric undertaking (to put it politely). It's entirely possible that I'll have less than nothing to show for it in the end. I don't think I will, but it is possible. Even in that case, though, I don't think I'll be swamped with regret. On some level, this was a journey I felt I simply had to take.

Thanks for coming along!

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 97: Two Days of Grinding AC

I'm back in the comfort of my own home again. How nice!

The trip to AC was a successful one. Not so much because I came back with oodles of cash, because I didn't. I showed a modest profit, and as my expenses were comped for the trip, it all goes into the bankroll.

But the real success of the trip was endurance under adverse conditions and a new perspective on life at the table. After a jolly start on Friday, things got a little more challenging on Saturday. I moved on up to the 2/5 game, started out very well, and then hit the wall.

It is no exaggeration to say that I proceeded to suffer through twelve hours of being so card dead I couldn't even bluff in position more than a handful of times (the only hands I won) punctuated by the occasional premium hand or lucky flop that proceeded to crush me as I got outdrawn. It was grim.

And you know what? I hung in. I stayed tilt free. And when I suffered a loss I ground it back. While it was hardly a laugh-riot, I do take some pride and enjoyment from the knowledge that I have the mental toughness to persist in the face of adversity. The mistakes I made were seriously outweighed by the very solid game I played over the long haul.

And the long haul was long indeed. I stayed up all night on Saturday, and when the 2/5 game broke up at 6am this morning, I moved back to the 1/2 game. After the higher-level effort required for the 2/5 game, the 1/2 game was positively relaxing. I started having fun again, and booked a win. At about 10am, I went up to my room to shower and pack.

I returned to the poker room and ended the trip with one of the most entertaining poker sessions I've ever played. My 1/2 table was well stocked with donkeys (sure, why not call the 7.5xBB raise with K8 suited!), playing loose and limpy. It was as juicy an opportunity as I've seen. It also dealt me two big blows early on, the most memorable of which was having my AA cracked by the fellow cited in the previous parenthetical. Quoth he: "We're all here to have fun, and it's no fun just sitting and waiting for aces and kings!" ("No, sir," I muttered under my breath, "I'm here to take your money. The fun is just a bonus.")

About half an hour into the session, a massive young man sat to my immediate left. At first, I was put out just because he was exceedingly large and was impinging into my personal space, which is a pet peeve. But he immediately endeared himself to me because, having witnessed the aforementioned AA crackage, he proceeded to deliver sotto voce witticisms about the extremely bad play being demonstrated in every hand. It was immediately obvious to me that this was a genuine student of the game. I would not be the slightest bit surprised to learn he is a regular denizen of online poker circles. It was nice to feel that I had an ally of sorts (aha! it's the DK syndrome!). Despite my fatigue, I was immediately inspired to break out my A game.

That AA hand felted me. With my efforts concentrated by this new voice of reason to my left, and with a sudden strong desire to prove my mettle, I rebought, and with some truly inspired play (and no horrible suckouts) I had bootstrapped myself back to even in about an orbit. The amusing dialog continued. In short order, I was actually up. And, in fact, I was having a tremendous amount of fun.

Alas, the bus waits for none, and I had to head out.

So, the two lessons I learned on this trip were: 1) I can grind it out, if I have to, and b) I can have fun doing it. I hereby resolve to have a hell of a lot more fun. I am going to extravert it up at the tables for a while. I am going to wisecrack, flirt, banter, converse, and generally just socialize myself silly at the table, because grinding is a boring and grim experience on its own. Why not make it less unpleasant if I can?

Any EV I lose, for example, by enlisting a table ally is probably more than compensated for by the enjoyment I derive from it and the likelihood of it keeping me off tilt and on my A game. I think that, if I had stayed longer today, I could probably also have learned something substantial from my neighbor to the left, in addition to having a hell of a good time. Why not recruit coaches and mentors whenever the opportunity arises? And, never fear, I've found that it's possible to do this without giving away much of one's own actual strategy or thought processes.

It was truly notable how many of my tablemates were essentially giving away the store on their 'thinking' (*pft* if you can call it that!) on their hands and strategies. The amount of (mostly wrong) hand analysis that goes on, especially at the 1/2 table where so may feature themselves as poker experts, is astonishing to me. I just sit back, listen, and pay attention to what each of these obvious poker gods is telling me about how he plays. As is my policy, I almost never reveal my hand or on how or why I played as I did. When I do say something, it is almost always a lie with a purpose.

The more time I spend in casinos, the more aware I become of the poker ecology. As a subculture, it has its fascinations. I'm also enjoying the benefits of becoming a regular. The poker room staff recognize me and go out of their way to be helpful. The dealers know my name and some of them can even recite memorable hands they've dealt that I was in. I am learning who the regulars are, and whom I need to stay away from and whom I should seek out. I am something of a creature of habit, and I find this level of familiarity with the territory comforting and conducive to relaxation and my overall equanimity.

It looks likely that I will return to AC for the Circuit Event at Harrahs's in December. While I'll certainly donk it up in a couple of tournaments, the side action at the cash games should be especially tasty.

[My DSL is cycling on and off again. I may be internet disabled again any minute now. Crap!]

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 95: Back in Black

Having arrived in AC with very little sleep in the bank, and no immediate access to my room, I chose to sit down at a 1/2 table. Why put a lot of money at risk when you're not at your sharpest?

I played for about an hour and was up 50%. I went and got my room key and took a two-hour nap. (I'm not much of a napper, but I know what's good for me, and I'm making an effort to actually DO what's good for me, right?)

After my little rest, and the belated arrival of my luggage, I showered and changed, grabbed an egg & roasted pepper wrap from Sack O' Subs, and went back to the poker room. Since three hours of sleep plus two hours of sleep is still only five hours of sleep, I elected to play 1/2 again. At one point I had nearly doubled up, but I gave a bit of it back, and ended up cashing out up about 50% again.

I then bought into the midnight tournament, where I busted out eighteenth of sixty. I blame one call I should probably have folded, and then the choice not to go all in with my pocket deuces, with five people in the pot ahead of me, where I would have flopped my set and quintupled up. Oh well. It was a relatively cheap tournament.

And you know what? I just turned November from a losing into a (okay barely, but still!) profitable month. So there.

In those two cash sessions I was playing really solid, dialed-in poker. I was putting people on hands accurately. I was making the right calls, and the right lay-downs. I was paying attention to stack sizes and pot sizes. The table was well-suited to my style of play, without a lot of crazy re-raising pre-flop, and I was able to take advantage of my tight image to steal and bluff every now and then. I think I can say without too much vainglory that for several hours, in that second session, I was clearly the best player at the table.

Also: I didn't run bad. What a difference that makes!

All-in-all, a good start to the stay. After a good night's sleep tonight I should be ready to return to the 2/5 game tomorrow.

Labels: , ,

Day 94: Once More Unto the Breach

I'm heading to AC this weekend. I would claim to be entirely unafraid, but that would be only 98.5% true.

The fact is, I've almost recouped my losses from the last trip. I have done well in tournaments, and made a substantial comeback in cash games too. I am no longer wincing with anxiety as I bet out my strong but potentially vulnerable hands. I am ready to take on Demon Variance once again.

So, with another fully comped trip on offer, I'm getting back on the horse again. Say it with me: Ride 'em, Cardgrrl!!

[I'm taking my laptop along, and plan to write and intend to post at least once while I'm on the road. I'm determined to restore my schedule of daily blogging, as I firmly believe that writing is actually one of those things that contributes to my general well-being. Which is rather odd, given my history with writing in the era before blogging ~ but that's a story for another time.]

Labels: , ,

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Day 74: Scorched Earth and Other Signs of Destruction

When things are going well, it's difficult to remember how awful it feels when things go badly. And, conversely, when everything is going to shit, it's difficult to remember what life was like when things were easy and pleasant. In fact, I maintain, except for the very most highly evolved persons, virtually impossible.

This trip to Atlantic City was a classic arc. Things started out pretty well. I went deep in a tournament or two. I was up a couple of hundred bucks at the cash table. I was flirting with my tablemates, with the dealers, the floor staff ~ let's be honest and say just about everyone ~ and they were flirting right back. Fun was being had by all concerned. The cards, while not spectacular, were well within normal and acceptable parameters. Poker was being played. And life was good.

(I add, on an entirely and purely personal note, that one cannot truly claim to have lived, as a poker player, until one has closed down a cash table in a casino and proceeded, whilst stone cold sober, to make out with the player immediately to one's left, as the dealer sits by and does his or her best not to hear or see anything. The entertainment value alone of this experience is enormous, quite apart from any other enjoyment that may be derived from it.)

And so one quite naturally thinks to oneself, "things are going swimmingly, yea verily I shall extend my stay in this paradise of gaming, where the rooms are cheap or free, the people pleasant and accommodating, and the cash runs like milk and money, err, honey."

But no paradise is without its snake, no rose without its thorn. Or, if you are me, your paradise becomes a snake pit, and your rosebush becomes a thicket of thorns without a bloom of any sort.

That horrible, perhaps unfamiliar, but indisputably ominous creaking noise you hear in the background, is the sound of the doomswitch being pulled from the OFF position to the ON position. You don't know it, yet, but you are FUCKED. Everything that was fun and good is now going to become very, very unfun and very, very bad. It's as if the Apocalypse had five horsemen, not four, and the guy after Death (Death’s really, really mean older brother) is coming specifically for you. Did I mention: really, really not good?

You will go through the stages of grieving. You will deny. You will rage and you will make stupid decisions. You will bargain. You will be very, very depressed. And eventually you will accept. Or you will kill yourself.

You know, one or the other.

In short: you will tilt. Welcome to my world.

I can tell you exactly when it all started to go south. It began innocently enough with a run of bad cards. Everybody has them, it’s no big deal. Patience is all that’s required, right?

Lots and lots and lots of patience. HOURS of patience. I cannot possibly enumerate the number of times I folded 9 2 offsuit and its ilk. I am told that premium hands were to be had during this stretch of time, but I can assure you, they were not to be had by me. After a while, and I mean a LONG while, non-premium hands of the vaguely connected and suited sort start to look like pocket aces. So, in the course of several hours, I played a few of those, with decidedly uninteresting results.

Time to mix it up, says I to myself.

I am in the cut-off (one seat to the right of the dealer button). Six people limp in to the pot with the minimum opening bet pre-flop. I look down at 10 8 of clubs. In my state of diminished capacity, it looks like gold to me. Suited and connected, by god! I feel frisky and daring. I raise to four times the big blind. The idea was, I would get to play for a biggish pot, against one or two people, with a hand that had possibilities against likely callers.

Now normally what would happen here is that something like half or more of the field would fold. Generally, people who limp into a pot are not terribly excited about their hand. A big raise is likely to scare them off.

This is not, however, what happened in this case. No indeed. Every one of the limpers called my raise. We are playing 2/5, so there is now $150 in the middle and I have a hand of dubious value, at best.

And then the clouds parted, and angels sang (I thought). The flop came 10 of diamonds, 8 of spades, 8 of hearts. Yes, dear friends, I flopped a full house. The phrase “I couldn’t believe my eyes” doesn’t even begin to cover it. I actually double-checked my hole cards, because I thought I couldn’t possibly be so lucky. But, lo and behold, it was so. I was in possession of the second nuts (the second best possible hand, after pocket 10s for the bigger full house).

And it got better. The first two limpers checked the flop. The third limper made a bet of $50. The fourth limper folded. And the charming fellow to my immediate right, a delightful young man who was a reasonably skilled player and fun to talk with to boot, pushed all in for about $320.

My god, what could be better?!? I am worried about one and only one possible hand, and if he had pocket tens in the hijack (two to the right of the button), I very much doubt he would have failed to raise pre-flop. My only concern now is to make sure that anyone with an overpair who may have limped pre-flop hoping to re-raise — like maybe the guy who just bet $50 — does not get a chance to draw to a bigger full house than mine.

This is an easy problem to solve: I shove for my whole stack, about $530. Obligingly, the third limper folds, leaving me heads up with the guy to my right. I get a rebate of $210, the amount more of money I had than he did.

I turn my hand over. He sheepishly shows the 7 8 of diamonds. He has trip eights. "I folded a ten," announces the guy who led out for $50. My heart swells with gladness. Both my patience and my creative daring are about to pay off. With two cards to come, I cannot be beaten.

Quoth he, “I need runner runner overcard pair for a chop.” The table laughs and groans. The probability of this happening is something on the order of .05%. I’d like to think the heat death of the universe will come sooner, but I know for a fact that is not true.

How, you ask?

Turn: King of hearts.

River: King of spades.

Perfect, perfect for the chop.

Yes, friends, I chopped this pot. I didn’t lose it, I will grant you. The two of us each made a little bit of profit from the money that others had already committed.

But I could not outright win a pot that I was the overwhelming, PROHIBITIVE FAVORITE to win. And that, folks, was the beginning of the end.

Before that, I was card dead. After, I was card crucified. Before that, I couldn’t get any traction. After that, I got my money in good and got bad-beated so many times that people were commiserating in hands with me before it even happened, because they knew it would.

For the following forty-eight hours, until I finally slunk out of the casino at 3 am this morning, it was carnage. I lost at the cash table, I lost at tournaments. The quality of my play definitely suffered, and I didn’t quit soon enough in a couple of sessions, but honestly, no matter whether I played well or badly, I was just going to get killed. It was only a question of whether I would lose my money quickly or slowly.

The hand that stuck a fork in me and let me know I was truly done went as follows.

It limps to me on the button. I have A 5 suited: again, not a monster, but one of the better hands I’ve seen in 48 hours. I raise the standard table raise of four times the blind. It folds around to one guy who limped in, and he calls.

The flop comes A 3 4, with two of my suit. For those of you following along, that means not only do I have top pair (aces), but I also have a draw to a straight and a draw to the nut flush. Let’s count the outs: 9 flush cards and 3 non-club deuces is 12 (or 15 if we believe that the remaining 3 fives will give us a winning hand if we get our second pair). Suffice it to say, this is a pretty good situation. Most of the time, we are favored to win if the other guy has an ace in his hand. He will need to pair his other card or the board in a suit other than ours and have a better kicker.

He bets out nine times the big blind on the flop. Bingo! We think it likely he has an ace. (Given his previous behavior when holding an ace, this seems like a reasonable assumption.) We hope very much it is a good ace, so that he will call when we proceed to raise him another fifteen times the big blind.

He calls our raise. While this causes a small twinge of anxiety, basically we rejoice. We are building the pot with what is likely to wind up the best hand.

Turn card is the queen of spades. Okay, no flush draw for him, and no flush (yet) for me. Did he have a queen for A Q two-pair? Apparently not, because it went check-check on the turn. (Should I have bet here? I thought it prudent to take a free card, still drawing to my flush, straight, or second pair, and exercise some pot control.)

The river is the 5 of hearts. Icing on the cake, baby! My flush didn’t materialize, but I have two pair. He bets out, I re-raise, and he shoves for about half the pot’s worth more. My heart sinks. I am fucked again, somehow.

Was I outplayed by a flopped set, or did he have pocket 5s? Did he slowplay his A Q?

Hell no! He called a thirty dollar re-raise on the flop with A 2 offsuit. And was the lucky beneficiary of a three-outer on the river for the wheel (an ace through five straight). Which river, of course, just happened to give me my second pair, pretty much ensuring that I’d call — although, to be honest, it was a crying call. (I didn’t expect to be beaten by the deuce, I must say. I thought for sure I was going down to a set.)

And that was enough for me. Not only did my hands not hold up, my good hands all became snares and delusions, perfectly devised to trap me into parting with more of my money while revealing my opponents to be people who made really bad decisions. And prospered by them. (Oh, how I both envied and despised them!) I was so desperate, shell-shocked, and disbelieving (surely, OMG, not again!) that I had become a pay-off wizard.

As I was turning my chips in at the cage (what few chips remained of multiple rebuys — yes, I rebought, because I believed that somehow, some way, I would actually get paid off rather than outdrawn, silly naive girl that I am), another player came up behind me. “Say,” he said, “weren’t you playing in that 2/5 game where that guy went runner runner for the bigger boat.” Yes, I said. The young dealer waiting behind him to pick up a rack of whites piped up, “Hey, I heard about that! And I have to say, I’ve never seen anyone take more bad beats in a row than this woman.”

That’s me, a legend in my own time. (I may have laughed bitterly.) When casino personnel are talking about you in pitying tones, you know you’ve had a bad run.

I’m telling you, you have to have a mind of winter to play this game. Because it will kick your ass. Hard. My bankroll took a big fat hit. I am still ahead, but now very little indeed. Two days undid most of two months. Evidently, losing is a much more efficient proposition than winning.

Yeah, poker is fun, baby. Lots and lots of fun. Now, where did I leave that cyanide?

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Day 68: You Win Some...

...you know how that story goes.

But really, 80% (give or take) of the battle is not letting the whole variance thing drive you insane. I'll have losing session after losing session, online and live, and then a little turnaround will happen and I'll make it all back and a bit more.

After a few days of losing multiple buy-ins, I sortied once more to the Crime Scene game, where I had a very nice run and returned to positive territory on the week for live play. Now all I need is to do the same for my online 'roll.

I did manage, at least, to grind my way back to SilverStar status, having lost it in September. It's not clear to me whether or not VIP points will ever amount to any actual scratch, but I do imagine that if I ever manage to start playing for more substantial stakes online it might offset some of the overhead of rake.

Harrah's offered me a free room for two nights in AC this week, so I'll be heading up there on Tuesday. It'll be interesting to see if my results playing 2/5 continue to be good. I'm a little worried that the mid-week crowd may be mostly tougher regulars rather than tourists or casual players. But how much scarier could they be than that table at the Venetian?

Labels: ,

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Day 34: Veni, Vidi, Vici

Gosh, that was fun.

I played at the 2/5 table for three hours or so and walked away having almost doubled my buy-in. I made one bad decision during this session ~ calling when I knew I was beat by the tightest player on the table, although not exactly HOW I was beat ~ which cost me quite a bit.

Otherwise, I played as well as I knew how, and after suffering one truly horrendous beat I stayed patient and tough and half an hour later FELTED the guy who inflicted it upon me.

You want to hear about it?

I thought you'd never ask! :D

You may be familiar with the poker saying, "If you can't tell who the fish is at your table after twenty minutes, it's you." Well, a few hands into my session today, I had identified the minnow at our table. A middle-aged white guy, pounding beers at 11 in the morning, counting out his chips with excruciating deliberateness while making really, really bad decisions about what to do with them. And he was catching cards and winning, against all odds.

I eyed him and his stack as a hungry tiger eyes the lame baby gazelle separated from its mommy on the veldt. He was going to be lunch.

But I thought I'd never get a crack at him, because two thirds of the table were licking their chops too. We were jostling for position, trying to be the first and last to finally benefit from his inevitable largesse. There was no way this guy was leaving the table with any of his money.

And then it happened. The perfect storm. I was in the big blind with Mr. Minnow two seats to my left. It folds to him and he limps in. Two more folds and one more limp from a guy I'm calling TVP because he's wearing a TV-poker-show t-shirt. It folds to the small blind who releases. I look at my cards, and I've got Ks6s. Nothing fancy. I check my option. There is now 7xBB in the pot.

The flop comes: Jc 6h 6c.

Ding ding ding ding ding! How happy am I?!?

For once, I think it's okay to slowplay. Why? Because I'm positive that one of the two guys behind me will bet out. And, sure enough, here comes Mr. Minnow with a 3xBB bet. TVP smooth-calls. The pot is now 13xBB.

Time to make my move. I absolutely, positively do not want anyone to draw to the club flush. Mr. Minnow is such a bad player, and I've seen him draw to the flush without pot odds already more than once, I am determined that if he wants to draw, he is going to PAY. So I make a nearly pot-sized bet with a raise of 9xBB on top.

I am not surprised when Mr. Minnow calls. TVP is a sensible player and he folds. Everyone at the table but Mr. Minnow now understands that I have a six. Everyone at the table also realizes that Mr. Minnow probably does not grasp this proposition.

Turn card: Js.

I have now filled up. I check. To my surprise, Mr. Minnow checks behind. A faint alarm bell goes off. (Weak means strong with these guys, I know this.)

River card: Ac.

I check. Mr. Minnow bets out 10xBB. I ask him, "Did you draw out a flush on me?" At this point, I am praying that he has a flush, but I've got a horrible sinking feeling that he has a Jack. The pot is offering me 3:1. Did he really call my bet on the flop with a two-outer draw?

Of course you know the answer to this one. Yes. Yes he did. He led out in early position and then called a big re-raise with Jh 8s (not even AJ or KJ, not even sooooted). There was a collective murmur of astonishment around the felt when he tabled his hand. You could also hear the faint gurgling sound of six or seven sets of salivary glands going into overdrive.

I was not a happy camper. I was very annoyed at myself for giving him credit for at least having been drawing to more outs. I should have known better. Maybe I could have found a way to fold the underboat to Mr. Minnow.

I will admit that at this point I'm really hoping I get a chance to get into it with Mr. Minnow again. I want my money back, before he goes and gives it all to someone else. I watch in dismay as he gets into several consecutive hands with my tablemates and loses amounts appropriate to his very bad judgment. His stack is dwindling.

About half an hour later, I am on the button. Mr. Minnow, under the gun, limps in. There are two other limpers and then the hijack, a solid player, makes it 4xBB to go. The cut-off (on my immediate right), another decent player, folds. I have As3s. This is a weak-ass hand, and an extremely loose call, especially up against Mr. Hijack, who isn't raising with crap. But I am 100% sure that Mr. Minnow will call, and with him and me in it, the fourth player will call too. I will be getting 3:1 on my money, in position. And so they did.

I tell myself I will fold to any bet if I don't hit the flop really hard.

The flop comes: Ks 5s 4s.

Yeah, I flopped the joint; I think that counts as "hitting the flop really hard." Behind a mildly interested-looking exterior, my inner child was dancing an extravagant happy-dance and shouting "booyah!" and other less savory expletives of joy.

It immediately got even better: Mr. Minnow bet out 20xBB. It is no surprise when the other two players promptly get out. I look at the board and ask myself: "What is he betting here?"

Does he have a set?
Big slick (AK)?
A baby flush?
Some kind of insane open-ended straight or straight-flush draw?

I call.

The turn card is 8h. I watch him as it falls. There is no hesitation.

"All-in!" he announces. About 50xBB. I have him covered.

I look at the board again. As far as I can tell, I still have the nuts. I have the nuts, right? How did the eight of hearts possibly help him? Does he have a set now? What the hell is going on?

Of course I call.

I have a flash of deep chill as the last card falls: it is the King of diamonds. Can he possibly have filled up on the river? Does my luck suck THAT BAD?

For once it does not. He turns over ~ wait for it ~ the King of clubs and the 10 of spades. My nut flush is indeed good and I drag all the chips.

But let us have a moment of silence for the beauty of extreme wrongness that was his 1) leading out big with top pair, weak kicker on a monochrome board from early position with three to act behind him and b) the all-in move with top pair, middling spade flush draw, after having his first bet called. (By me, probably the second- or third-tightest player on the table.)

It is easier to spot the fish a) when there are fewer fish in the pond (i.e., it's not all fish all the time) and 2) for once, it's not you.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Have I Found My Game?

As I suggested in today's earlier entry, I thought I might take a stab at the 2/5 game, just to see what it was like.

So at about 11 pm, I moved up in stakes for the first time. I expected to be nervous and tentative, but I found that the elevated stakes actually calmed and focused me. I was pleasantly relaxed, and employed a much more chatty and outgoing table persona than I usual project. For example, there was about a half-an-hour's speculation at the table about my name, with me providing clues and seeing if anyone could guess it. None of the men were successful, but a female floor person (who hadn't seen my player's card) got it in 30 seconds flat.

Unlike the 1/2 table, which ~ more often than not ~ is all about playing your cards and your position and hoping for the best (while expecting massive variance because of the random donkey factor), at 2/5 I was actually able to make reads, make plays, and make money.

There's a lot of ribbing on the forums at 2+2 about people "moving up to where they respect your raises." Of course you want people calling you when you make raises with the best hand. But people played a much better post-flop game at 2/5... and the pre-flop bet sizes were more appropriately proportional to the blinds (3x or 4x rather than 5x or 6x or even more). We did see a couple of monsterpotten, but also the pot sizes mostly didn't get ridiculously bloated.

The signal improvement I made in my game was in folding. I am most proud of a couple hands where I got away from huge hole cards hitting the flop because I knew I was either beaten or about to be beaten. I made two really spectacular laydowns that gave me genuine hope for my game. The money I didn't lose was even more gratifying to me than the money I made.

Now maybe I was just (finally) running better than I usual do. Or maybe the increased stakes had me paying closer attention to the game. Or maybe the full night's sleep was a help. Maybe I just miraculously ran into the softest 2/5 table in AC. It could have been all or none of the above. I may have a horrible experience at 2/5 next time, who knows?

Long story short, I profited. And I really enjoyed the experience. I'll definitely be wading in the big kids' pool more often.

Three people asked me if I was a pro today. (Three!) That's not good. I'll admit I got a little thrill from the question, but that's definitely not something I want people thinking about about when they play with me. I have GOT to resist the temptation to talk about hands after they're over and the desire to share my observations about the table with someone on the spot. It's a leak and I need to plug it, fast.

Labels: ,

Day 33: Back in Black

Got myself 8 hours of mediocre-quality sleep, and played about 4.5 hours this afternoon, and bootstrapped myself back into the black. Barely. We'll see how it goes tonight.

I think I need to up my gambool quotient. I've got pretty deep pockets for this trip; I might as well take advantage of the bankroll to work up a little tolerance for the variance that would come with a wider range of hands. I haven't had to rebuy once so far ~ but it wouldn't kill me if I did.

I'm also mildly tempted to step up to 2/5 for one session, just to see how it plays. If I continue to hold my own, I might do that tomorrow, after another decent night's sleep.

One of the fun things about coming back to the same casino over and over is that you see the same cast of characters again and again: the regulars, the floor, the dealers. Sometimes they recognize you, too, and sometimes not. I think a lot of the Harrah's regulars are playing over at the USPC at the Taj this weekend. I was tempted to do that, but decided to stick with cash for now.

Also, take note: there's a new fashion statement going on at the poker table. I'm used to guys in baseball caps and sunglasses, but at my game this afternoon there were no less than FIVE guys wearing black baseball caps (four forward and one backward). All ages and races. Apparently everyone wants to be Darth Vader or something. Frankly, it just plain cracked me up.

Labels: ,

Friday, September 19, 2008

Day 32: In which AC conspires to frustrate the bejesus out of me.

Let's see. I did manage to make money on pocket Aces one time. And a pair of Kings held up another time. Other than that, I got outdrawn pretty spectacularly.

You know what? I'm probably ~ as one kind commenter has put it ~ a TAGfish.

(But I'm a TAGfish that just can't hit a flop like every other lucky mofo on the planet. And if there's a flush draw to be had against me, you can be sure that my opponent will call me without odds and will get there anyway. Every time.)

It's a pathetic moral victory that I'm only down 1/3 of a buy-in. At my best today I was up by 1/3. I've probably paid the equivalent in rake too. Oh well. Tomorrow is another day.

But my freakin' next door neighbor in the hotel seems to have fallen asleep with his television blasting and I forgot to buy earplugs.

I am exhausted and not a little cranky. And it looks like a good night's sleep is going to be hard to come by. Don't be fooled by the timestamp on this post, which I use for book-keeping purposes. It's actually 4:30 in the morning.


Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Day 3: AC/DC (and not necessarily in a good way)

I'm back from my Atlantic City trip, totally and completely exhausted and richer in experience and wisdom but not in the 'roll. I'm going to try to process what I learned and give you some of it in a constructive narrative form ~ but not until I've had one good night's sleep.

The big challenge from this episode is to try absorb the positive lessons as thoroughly as the negative ones. There were both kinds to be had in this chapter of the story. It is much easier, though, to dwell on the things I did wrong than on the things I did right. After all, evolution has built in higher priority and more efficient pathways for the negative feedback loops that help us survive danger than for the positive loops that reward success in competition or acquisition and in learning (hierarchy of needs = survival > reproduction > status, roughly, according to Maslow and, less academically but more entertainingly, by various PUAs).

I love poker but, you know... poker is hard. (If it were easy, anyone could do it.) I am trying to remind myself that, expenses aside, I came back less than one buy-in down over the session. Statistically, in a poker year, that means nothing. I recovered from worse while I was still there, for example.

Would I rather have come back with fistfuls of cash? You know it.

Am I going to panic because I didn't? Nah.

Dudes: it's day three. We're on a long road here. Have a look at the bankroll numbers, which do include poker-related travel & lodging expenses, for perspective (that sure helps me).

Live Bankroll: 98.3%
Online Bankroll: 100%


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Day 2: Just Another Day at the Office

I'm in AC for a couple of days. It's been interesting playing with a new attitude. Updates as time allows and a full report on my return.