Raise or Fold:  Learning (From) Poker

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

Thursday, March 25, 2010

That Woozy Feeling

The last thing you want is to be sick in Las Vegas. Unfortunately for the last couple of days I've been plagued with some kind of vague illness: headachy, light-headed, wobbly on my feet, and with a delicate digestive tract. So, at the moment, I'm hanging out in my hotel room feeling just a little bit sorry for myself.

I hope whatever it is goes away quickly so that I can resume having a good time.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Tweak

I have had numerous requests from readers to reveal the nature and particulars of The Tweak. As this is the new age of interactive and social media, I feel obliged to respond. So here ya go:

Not. Gonna. Happen.

I'm just not good enough to tell everyone exactly how I'm playing and then figure out who's adjusting and then readjust myself etc. etc. Since it's likely that my readers constitute a better-than-average group of poker players, letting them have specifics that make me more exploitable than I already am seems absolutely idiotic.

Don't be paranoid, you say?

But already, and more than once, my public face has foiled my game strategy. In the most recent case, I was playing for the first time at Treasure Island. Not only was The Tweak in full deployment, but I was also working my Live Poker/Vegas N00b persona. I happened to find myself sitting next to David Stucke ~ a highly-skilled poker-player (he also downplayed his accomplishments, which apparently include a WSOP bracelet) ~ with whom I struck up an extended conversation. I learned he is a physicist, and a very pleasant, nice person in addition to being blindingly bright. He kindly pointed out to me who the regulars were in the room, and was forthcoming on life in Vegas in general.

A new player joined the table and said hello to David. I asked David what the new player's name was, so that I could greet him and continue my program of table socializing. "His name is Brick," said David. "Hi Brick!" I called out.

"Well, hi!" said Brick from the one seat. There was a pause. Then he said to David, "You know who that is, don't you?"

David indicated no.

"You're sitting next to someone famous. That's Cardgrrl! I follow her on Twitter." He came round the table and showed David my latest tweets from TI on his cell phone. (I subsequently put the pieces together and realized that Brick=@apolloavp. Hi, Brick! Needless to say, all my concerns apply to you, too!)

Aaaaagh, busted! After a brief round of protestations and demurrals, I tapped out a note on my phone to show to David, asking him to not out me to the whole table. I left shortly after. On my way out, I apologized to David for my display of faux ignorance. I sincerely hope that my misdirection hasn't permanently appalled him, because he seems like exactly the sort of person I'd like to get to know better and be friendly with in Las Vegas.

He is also, however, exactly the sort of person with whom I would never, ever want to be openly explicit about my strategy unless I were asking ~ and probably paying ~ him to coach me. Alas, since no approach I'm likely to take constitutes rocket science (or material physics for that matter), it's quite likely he could figure me out down to the ground eventually anyway. But why give anyone a head start?

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Precipitous Drop in Hell's Ambient Temperature

Or maybe it's just variance. Whatevs.

I made a small tweak in my 1/2 cash game. Just a little one. And the results have been startling. Instead of winning small and losing big, I'm losing small and winning big. Two substantial gains in two sessions. I know, I know, not a statistically meaningful sample.

Perhaps it's all coincidence. Dunno.

But I'm going to keep up this new approach for awhile and see how it goes.

In the meantime, I'm mightily looking forward to the 2K Guarantee at Harrah's 1pm Megastack Tournament tomorrow. One-fitty gets you 20K in starting chips, a sweet slow structure, and half-hour levels. A bunch of AVPers are playing; y'all come too!

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Not Looking Good

Lots 'o' losing. Other than two small tourney wins (actually, chops one win and one chop), lots 'n' lots o' losing. I am the loserator. Loserific. La Loserella.

And tonight, in a fit of pique, the display on my iPhone went belly up. It had been doing the same thing as the previous model (turning on dimly occasionally). Then, it just gave up altogether. So a trip to the Apple Store is in order tomorrow, first thing. Hopefully the replacement will be as swift as the last time. Not impressed by the product quality control, however, I must say. (My first iPhone was such a joy, built like a tank and totally reliable. This latest model, not so much.)

Tonight, after the endless losing, I actually had a profitable cash session. Half of it was due to two hands: making a straight flush when the other guy had the same straight; and flopping top set of Jacks when the other guy had pocket Queens. The second half of the profit came from not getting brutalized, for once, and not making any dopey errors.

I have one week left. There's gonna have to be a massive amount of winning between now and next Friday if I plan to show a profit for this trip. I'm hoping Labor Day weekend vacationers will play lots of poker worse than I do.

[Update: iPhone seems to have debricked itself after getting charged up a bit. Will wait 'til I get home to look into fixes.]

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Las Vegas Report

Wish the news were better...

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Meetup: Rhumbar at Mirage Hotel

For those of you brave souls who may find yourselves in Las Vegas on Friday evening, August 28th: please join me and other poker types at 7pm in the Rhumbar at the Mirage. Specialty cocktails, comfy outdoor seating, and poker-blog-chat… who could ask for anything more?

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Bellagio Visit

Well, I went and played at the Bellagio for the first time yesterday. Once again, my experience was contrary to that of many people whose reports I have followed with interest.

To my surprise, the staff was welcoming, friendly, polite, and seemed eager to get me seated and comfortable. I started out at 2/5, where things did not go well. It was one of those days where I zigged when I should have zagged, the cards utterly failed to cooperate, and I missed out on a couple of big pots just from lack of timely aggression. I then stepped down to 1/2, and things didn't go particularly well there either. I didn't play as well as I should have, but even if I had, I doubt I would have done much better. It was a no-traction kind of session.

My 1/2 table backed up to Bobby's Room, which held in its crystalline embrace Phil Ivey, David Benyamine, and Bobby Baldwin (and his lithesome young blonde companion). The three of them were apparently taking turns munching on a fourth player, a fellow in a black t-shirt whom one of the dealers said was a Frenchman with more money than he knew what to do with. Supposedly the night before he'd thrown a giant hissy-fit tantrum at one point in the evening, chucking things across the room and cursing. This was apparently insufficiently bad behavior to get him eighty-sixed. One wonders how deep a person's pockets have to be to make such behavior tolerable. (I did hear a fellow guarding the door tell an inquirer that the minimum buy-in for the room was $100K). When Mr. T-Shirt left, Ivey and Benyamine sat around playing Chinese poker, no doubt for house-sized sums of money. Benyamine looked better than I've ever seen him: he's lost a lot of weight and he was well-groomed and rested-seeming.

All in all, despite the poker results, my visit to the Bellagio room was pleasant enough, and I would certainly not object to playing there again.

It's now time to return to my regularly scheduled agenda of actually making money playing poker. This latest series of losing cash sessions is not enjoyable and must cease prontissimo.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009


My goodness, you go for nearly a week without posting and then, when you finally do sit down to write something, you're completely paralyzed by how much catching up you have to do!

I've been feeling too stingy and stubborn to pay for the internet connection at Harrah's. So rather than sum up every day like a sensible human being, I kept putting it off, and now I'm sitting in the (arctic) food court at the Venetian, trying to make up for lost time.

First there were nearly 200 emails to read.
Then, almost 500 RSS feeds.
Plus the photos I had to get off my camera, on to my computer, and then file and edit.

Blog post? Oh please. If I had anything interesting to say when I first sat down, it's long since evaporated. So I'll give you the very quick, rough rundown instead. (The good news is that starting tomorrow I'll be AT the Venetian for four days, which should make it much more convenient for me to stay current.)

I had a lovely birthday in Las Vegas, which included a winning session of 2/5 at the V and a delicious dinner with Rakewell at Tao Bistro. I had a fun and modestly profitable venture at the 4/8 HORSE game on Wednesday night. I took an absolute bath at the 2/5 game at the Wynn (not because the competition was especially tough, but because I was on the losing end of a couple of monster pots... it happens). On Friday, I squeaked out a small win at the MGM's 2/5. Contrary to all the reports of extreme softness I had been receiving, my table was 3/4ths rocky regulars and pros. There was one classic Crasian, and a few obvious touristy young men who quickly dumped their money to the table and were replaced by others. Alas, I wasn't able to skim off much of that bounty.

Saturday, I played in Harrah's 1pm Megastack tournament. We only had 14 runners, which made for a smallish prize pool, which only paid 2. The structure is excellent, and my only complaint about the way the room runs the game is that they don't have a dedicated clock for it. Three other scheduled tournaments overlapped with mine, which probably diluted both the entrant numbers and the staff attention. If you find yourself looking for a nice, slow tournament with lots of play for the money (despite a steep juice), please check this game out. It's not currently getting big fields, and I would hate for Harrah's to give up on it for lack for participation. I will certainly play it again before I leave Vegas.

The tournament went just over 8 hours. We agreed to pay 4th place his money back, and for 3rd to get double his money, which further attenuated the prize. It ended with faithful reader Tarpie and me going heads-up! After a short tussle, I was fortunate enough to win. I was delighted to share in the glory with a familiar face. Well played, my friend.

I think this evening I'll head over to Caesars to see if they have a 2/5 game going. It's been nice to have a slow, quiet start to my day ~ and I'm definitely convinced now that that I don't want to go so long without breaking out the computer for some quality internet time. Promise I'll be more frequent going forward!

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Like A Bad Penny…

I keep coming back!

I have booked my airfare, and I will be in Las Vegas from August 18th through September 10th. It's not quite a month, but close enough. Unlike my last stay, I'm not renting a condo, but will be hotel-hopping from place to place according to what kind of deals I can get. Twelve of the nights are already booked at the Venetian, which I'm getting for the ridiculous rate of $30 a night. Who could resist THAT?

The plan for the visit is mostly to play 2/5, with the occasional good structure, modest buy-in tournament thrown into the mix. This trip will be something of a litmus test for me. Can I really pay the bills and have something left over at a non-WSOP time ~ during one of Las Vegas's low seasons?

We shall see.

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Fields of Gold

Based on a completely inadequate sample size, I am tempted to conclude that I played the wrong game for most of my stay in Las Vegas.

I spent an absolute fortune (by my modest bankroll standards) on tournament entries ~ both at the WSOP and elsewhere. My tournament ROI was abysmal, as I only cashed twice and minimally at that. I also played various 1/2 cash games around town and mostly lost. And then ~ battered, bruised, and in a fundamentally shell-shocked state ~ I stumbled into the Poker Room at the Rio and sat down at a 2/5 game.

As a parched wanderer crossing the desert doubts the vision of loveliness rising ahead of him in the scorching heat, thinking that surely the verdant oasis before him must be yet another cruel mirage or a hallucination bought on by near-mortal thirst, so did I experience a surge of disbelief when the bounty of the 2/5 game at the Rio unfolded before me.

A few preliminary words of caveat, mitigation, and general context: First, it must be understood that I had been (you should excuse my language) running like shit for what seemed like a LIFETIME (really about 3.5 months). Let us stipulate that running bad easily leads to playing badly, makes you doubt everything you think you know about the game, and in general is, if prolonged, the most demoralizing and destructive thing a poker-player can experience at the table. When you have been running bad, a reversal of fortune ~ being dealt playable hands, big hands consistently holding up, draws coming in at a rate approaching statistical expectation ~ feels like hitting the jackpot over and over and over.

Second, I am at best a mediocre cash player. AT BEST. Until relatively recently ~ and we're talking a matter of months here ~ I was downright feeble. This is the case with most people who learn poker by playing in tournaments. The habits and strategies that serve them well in shorter-stack tournaments are disastrous at a cash table, particularly when playing deep. The Rio poker room was filled with people who were there to play in tournaments, and not just any tournaments, but the freakin' World Series of Poker. These are folks who think highly of their poker skills; they are there to take on the best. Why were they sitting at a cash table, you ask? Because they were either waiting to play in a tournament, or had busted out and had something to prove. And the 2/5 game at the Rio is uncapped, which results in people sitting with enormous piles of chips in front of them. I have never before played in such a deepstacked cash game.

As I've mentioned previously, 2/5 has shown me a consistent profit. There's something about the way 2/5 games tend to play that suits my thinking and my baseline style. It is easier for me to understand what is happening at a 2/5 table. The higher stakes keep me that much more alert and attentive to what's going on. And the prospect of earning more money for the time committed tends to focus my mind and enhance my patience. I have little doubt that I actually play better at 2/5… and that my play is more improved than my opponents' skill level is increased compared to a 1/2 game.

It's a beautiful thing when you can look around the table and know exactly where the weak spots are (and who the dangerous players are, so you can avoid them). It's an amazing sensation when, just a couple of orbits into a game, you are confident that you have a pretty good bead on how people are playing ~ and how most of them are playing, each in his own way, is badly. Exploitably. Predictably. Sloppily. Foolishly. And all of it for large sums of money.

You know those cartoon characters who, perceiving the prospect of an easy score, get dollar $ign$ for eyes? Well, that was me. And to add icing on the cake, I ran hot too. Bonus! I played six sessions at the Rio in my last week in Las Vegas. I averaged 60BB an hour. Yeah, that's sustainable (NOT!). It was the single most profitable run at cash tables I've ever had, and I'll be stunned if I have another like it anytime soon.

But the net effect was astonishing: I absolutely owned those tables. The poker room staff actually started making jokes about it. The third time I cashed out with a huge profit, the cashier guy said to me, "Another fine day at the office, I see." And at my last session, the floor who seated me at the table said, "Here you go... I hope you enjoy dominating, er, I mean playing at this table." Even when you know how easily things could have gone differently, and indeed very badly (and I do, I certainly do), it is hard not to feel a surge of confidence when just about every decision you make is rewarded handsomely rather than brutally punished.

There's just no two ways about it: winning is fun, and winning big is BIG FUN. And it has to be said that winning big after a long, harsh losing streak is especially sweet.

But does any of this mean that suddenly I am a poker genius? Definitely not. It's incredibly hard to unravel these kinds of results to try to determine how much of my success was due to good play and what portion was just dumb luck. And, I must add, I am still struggling to show a meaningful profit for the year.

Coming up soon: some more general thoughts about my time in Vegas, and what it may or may not mean for the choices that face me at the end of the Year of Risky Business.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

So Soon?

I leave Las Vegas in just about 48 hours.

When I write it like that, it seems as if it can't possibly be right. How can this be? I'm only beginning to settle in, feel the rhythm, establish a way of life.

My god, I've only just discovered the gold that is the uncapped 2/5 cash game at the Rio! How can I leave now?

And I haven't won a tournament yet. I was supposed to win a tournament, dammit!

The Main Event starts in a few days. THE MAIN EVENT. How am I not playing in the Main Event?!? (You mean, I'm going to go home and then sit around waiting to see it on cable months from now? That is just wrong.)

The fact is, I don't wanna go home.

I've grown attached to the WSOP pad, which ~ despite a few plumbing quirks ~ is incredibly comfortable and quite luxurious. I love going for a swim under the blazing sun in the morning. The place has a dishwasher and a washer-dryer in the unit. Sigh.

I've grown accustomed to playing in comfortable casinos, with non-usurious rake, that are RIGHT THERE ALL THE TIME. Let me repeat: RIGHT THERE ALL THE TIME.


I've been living the dream, and it's time to wake up. I haven't made money on this trip. I am not living a sustainable lifestyle. I miss my friends and my city. I have a book to finish. And some big fat honking life decisions to make in just over a month's time.

It's going to suck big-time to get on the plane. Try as I might, though, I can't come up with a viable rationalization for putting it off.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Triple The Disappointment

I hate writing bust-out post-mortems.

Long story short: I made one mistake early, calling off my first 3000 chips with top pair. I thought my opponent was bluffing, when in fact he had gone runner runner for a backdoor flush. I misread him completely. My bad.

I traded in for my remaining 6000 chips. My table was tough; the only donkey (other than me) busted out in Level 2, and after that it was just high-quality poker all around.

And for the next five hours I did my best, to no good result. I was mostly card-dead. When I had anything even vaguely resembling a hand, there was inevitably already a raise out in front in me or a re-raise behind. (My table had exactly ONE unraised pot ~ except for blind v. blind hands ~ in the nearly 6 hours I played.) I couldn't hit a flop. I had nothing to play back with when the button made a stab at the blinds. My best hand was pocket JJ, and even then, there was an A on the flop, and I had to essentially turn my hand into a bluff to win the pot.

I got shorter and shorter. I never could get a spot to make a move.

Finally, I found 99 in the big blind. This was my second biggest hand of the day. There was a mid-position 2.5BB raise (the table norm), and two callers behind. This was a no-brainer shove for me. The initial raiser came over the top all-in. The others folded. I tabled my hand, and the other guy showed AA. Buh-bye.

I didn't take any bad beats, but I also think I only made one truly wrong decision. I just couldn't get anything going. When I tried to make a move, I got massively re-raised. When I caught a little bit of a hand, I couldn't do much of anything with it. I was either outplayed or outclassed (or both). In either case: no traction.

By the time I busted out, I was deeply frustrated.

My only consolation was watching Jerrod Ankenman, who won Event #42 (Mixed Hold'em), get felted at my table holding QQ ~ having gone all in on a baby flop ~ and losing to AA. Sound familiar? Apparently I'm not the only person to stack off with a simple overpair of Queens.

And that's it for my scheduled WSOP events: one mini-cash for 4 attempts.

I have three days left in Vegas. I plan to play cash at the Rio again tomorrow. It is POSSIBLE that I'll decide to play in one Main Event satellite in the evening. I suppose if I were to win a Main Event seat I would be very, very tempted to stay and play. (Gotta follow the story arc to its conclusion, right?)

Otherwise, it's home again for me, where the grim work of review and assessment will begin in earnest.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Relaxing The Night Before Event #52

I made myself a tasty and nutritious dinner and then went out for a stroll to the Strip in the ridiculous 90+ degree evening heat. I wandered about in the Bellagio, and then threaded my way through the crowds (drunken guys bashing into me, girls in evening dresses puking into the bushes... ah, la jeunesse dorée!) to watch the musical fountains, which seem to be reliably enjoyable.

I am accustomed to having big chunks of time on my own, but I have been much more than typically social during my time in Las Vegas. I am coming to appreciate how much the intensity and interpersonal nature of playing poker wears on me, and how very important it is for me to have time truly to myself to recharge.

The solitary evening has been a great preparation for tomorrow. The only thing more I need is a really good night's sleep.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

I, Degenerate

Well, it had to happen eventually. I suppose.

After playing in a galloping-blinds turbo HORSE tournament at Green Valley and faring poorly, I naturally decided the sensible thing to do was to go to Harrah's and play the 4/8 HORSE cash game.

Of course. What else?

Never mind that Vegas's HORSE lovers converge on this modest stakes game. Never mind that they all know each other's styles backwards and forwards. Never mind that I was epically failing to heed the number one adage of table selection: PLAY WITH PEOPLE WHO YOU HAVE REASON TO BELIEVE ARE LESS SKILLFUL THAN YOU ARE.

Me, I consider losing at such a game as the price of a higher poker education. (Yeah, that's the ticket. Also, it's fun.)

Long story short, I commenced playing with this bunch at about 11pm, and finally bailed out at about 8:30 am this morning. Total profit for 9.5 hours of play: ONE DOLLAR.

But you know what? I count that as a win, and a pretty huge win, at that.

I battled back from a $240 deficit, and I did it after the table had become significantly short-handed. We played much of the night five-handed or less. That I managed to break even against this competition, playing games that are not my main strength... well, let's just say I'm entirely satisfied with the results.

Of course, getting some sleep and having anything left over for tomorrow ~ well, that's a whole 'nother question. Pulling an all-nighter was not part of the game plan. I have the discipline of a wet noodle. But I am a wet noodle who continues to learn how to be a better poker-player.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Don't Argue With The Numbers

The numbers say I am consistently profitable playing 2/5 cash games. It seems completely idiotic of me to not play 2/5 when it is available.

It is widely and readily available in Las Vegas.

There is, therefore, no good reason for me to play 1/2 here. None.

This afternoon, I played 2/5 at the Rio and had my first really solid winning cash session in a long, long time. I played well: I knew what was going on; I got my money in good or I made cogent bluffs... and I won. A lot. In a not very long time.

Wow. What a concept. Making money playing poker.

I remember that this used to happen with some regularity, months ago. It was a strange and pleasurably nostalgic sensation to actually leave a cash session well ahead.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

I Made A Rookie Mistake

We had just made the money. My head was flooded with happy-making endorphins.

I looked down at QQ in the cut-off; it was the first premium hand I'd seen in the nearly two hours we'd been playing day 2. "Don't go broke with this hand," I told myself, "it's only a pair of queens."

The action folded around to me and I made a standard raise. The button re-raised me, almost tripling my bet. He and I had approximately equal stacks.

With that re-raise, I gave him the following range: AA, KK, QQ (not likely for obvious reasons), JJ, possibly 10 10, and AK. Or air, as an aggressive button move to counter a cut-off steal, although I would assign that possibility a relatively low likelihood.

Should I raise or call? I thought I'd take a flop, and if it came with an A or a K, I could get away from my QQ easily. Of course, by doing so, I pretty much defined my own hand range to my opponent.

I called. (Probably a mistake: if I had re-raised and then he had come over the top, I would have had a very clear idea where I was.)

The flop came 9 8 2. I checked, intending to check-raise.

He bet out. I raised, making it 20K to go.

He moved all in. (This same player, a couple of hands earlier, had claimed to have laid down JJ to an all-in bet, saying that he wasn't prepared to play for his whole stack with a hand that weak.)

I was behind to AA, KK, and a set of 99s or 88s. I had about 40K left. If I folded, I would suddenly have barely half the average stack. Over half my stack was already in the pot.

I was high on having cashed. This is a leak in my game that I have previously identified: success goes to my head and I make poor, rash decisions. Had I breathed and contemplated for another 45 seconds, I think I could have found the fold, which was clearly the right thing to do. How could I not be behind here, way behind? I was, mostly likely, drawing to two outs.

I called anyway. If you were to ask me why, I really couldn't say, other than there was a ton of money in the pot, my brain was clouded with pleasure, and I was indulging in crazy wishful thinking (a hero call snaps off an elaborate bluff, or he's got JJ).

Of course he turned over KK, and I didn't catch a miracle Q.

It was a very bad decision. Really bad. Donkalicious. An utter embarrassment. Certainly not worthy of an aspiring professional.

I am very annoyed with myself. I could have made the right choice and played on with a smaller, but still potentially effective stack. I could have gone deeper. I could have given myself a chance to come back. I COULD AND SHOULD HAVE FOLDED. I am, in fact, mortified that I made such an amateur error.

Paradoxically, however, I am also actually grateful to have busted out of a big tournament through my own bad play. I have been so beaten up lately by bad luck, that it was somehow refreshing to be able to take full responsibility for this failure. Granted, it sucks to have QQ run into KK the very first hand after the money, but hey ~ these things happen. Ultimately, though, I made my own misfortune this time, and I am entirely willing to take responsibility for it.

I am not soul-crushed by it, as I would have been if I'd gone out on some kind of horrible bad beat. This is an expensive lesson, but I do believe that I can learn from it and that the sting of it will make the lesson stick so that I become a better player.

I cashed (albeit for the minimum) in a World Series of Poker event. That's a personal milestone, and I'm proud of it despite my disappointment. It's one small but meaningful step on the road to greater success.

I'm not done yet.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Try, try again. So tomorrow noon I sit down at Amazon Blue Table 25, Seat 6, and try to make my mark on WSOP Event 36, 2K NLHE.

Part of me is wondering why I'm doing this. My results so far have been pretty abysmal. But I came here to Las Vegas for this very reason, to play poker in tournaments. To make the best decisions I know how, and let the chips (and cards) fall as they may.

It's been daunting watching my bankroll drain down and down. But I built this possibility in to the budget for my year-long plan, and I had to expect that it might happen. This is, after all, a risky business.

One major tournament score would set everything more than right. I am ready to do my part to make it happen.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different

I love the structure of the Grand tournaments at the Golden Nugget. They are perfect for me. And I was sailing along this afternoon until just before the dinner break, when my AA got cracked by 46 of clubs. Maybe a better player than I would have folded when my opponent (the huge chipstack) put me all-in on the turn as the flush card hit. I called and couldn't catch any of my four re-draw outs to win.

He called a (large) potsized bet on the flop with a naked baby flush draw. (I had raised big in early position pre-flop.) How is it that the people who I specifically do not give odds to call to a draw, call and draw anyways, and inevitably make their hand?

So tomorrow I'm going to play the Nugget's HORSE tournament. It'll be limit, it'll be less stressful, and as I am a mediocre player, I'll be doing it largely for recreational purposes. My friend and fellow blogger F-Train will be playing too, and I have much higher hopes for him than I do for myself.

Maybe playing a game where I have absolutely no expectations for my success will actually be good for me. Because god knows I'm not getting any traction in the games where I actually think I have some kind of edge.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

What A Mediocre Day Looks Like

So I went back to Imperial Palace in hopes of replicating yesterday's success. But this time I played for 6 hours and walked away just barely above break-even. Not exactly a world-beating outing.

I had an unremarkable mixture of starting hands, with perhaps a slightly less than average distribution of premiums and playable speculatives in position. The only hands I hit the flop really hard with were ones I (correctly) folded pre-flop. The tables were relatively soft, featuring some spectacularly bad play which I was only intermittently able to capitalize upon.

On the other hand, I didn't lose, which at this point feels like a victory to me. In two of my bigger pots (of which there were very few), one was taken down with a semi-bluff reraise and the other was won with three bullets fired from the button with position and air. Where I made mistakes in judgment, I didn't lose much. Where I played my best, I prospered.

Note to self: less of the former, more of the latter.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

What A Good Day Looks Like

After Friday night's epic badness, I wasn't sure whether I was going to be able to scrape myself together and play poker today. But I woke up, had a nice breakfast on my balcony, made the drive-of-shame to an ATM, and betook myself to the Imperial Palace Hotel. Once more unto the breach, etc. etc.

Well, golly.

I played solid, unremarkable poker. I got a couple two-three decent hands and they mostly held up. Holy smokes, I RAN AVERAGE. I even caught a set and didn't get sucked out on.

You might as well have gift-wrapped the goose that laid the golden egg and put it in my lap. I made a tidy profit in the roughly four hours I played.

Months ago, I used to routinely have cash sessions that went that way. I vaguely remember what that was like. (As in a glass, darkly.) They've been so scarce since then, that I felt as if clouds had parted and God Himself had laid a finger upon me. Positively anointed, I tell you.

I came home and cooked dinner for a couple of guests, as if all of it were the most normal thing in the world. The evening featured good company and good conversation.

If most days were pretty much like this one, I'd be a very happy grrl.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Red Rock

Red Rock Canyon

No poker today. Instead I went to Red Rock Canyon with the Grump, and cooked a meal with food I purchased at an actual grocery store. (Just having a refrigerator and a cupboard full of food makes me happy.)

Red Rock Canyon

I will definitely want to visit again.

Red Rock Canyon

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

At Last: The WSOP Pad

Weeks ahead of time I arranged to rent a one-bedroom condo at the Meridian for the month of June. I looked at a site map, and I made clear to the agent with whom I spoke exactly what I was looking for. I had three specific criteria: a quiet, top floor unit; a pleasant view with some foliage; and a reliable internet connection.

She offered to email me photographs of the most promising of the available units. They never arrived. This was the first sign that all would not be going smoothly.

Nonetheless, I sent in an application and rental agreement.

When I arrived in Las Vegas, I went to the Meridian as scheduled, only to find that the agent was not there. She showed up 40 minutes later. This, too, became a theme. When she arrived, she told me there had been a "flooding" problem in the kitchen of the unit I had reserved, and she was going to have to provide me with a different unit. My poker-player's spidey-sense was tingling madly, but there seemed little I could do about it. She promised she would place me in an even nicer unit.

I will spare you all the details of the moving from one place to another that ensued. Suffice it to say that for a week I was in a unit that a) was on the ground floor right over the entrance to the parking garage (not quiet); b) had a view of the parking lot, and c) had no internet connection of its own (I was reduced to poaching an open wireless connection that dropped out after 4 minutes and was compeletely unavailable much of the time).

I was persistent and insistent, and eventually was able to move into the unit shown in this video. The unit I was originally supposed to occupy is across the way… and, I may add, I have observed that it is clearly occupied (I've seen lights on and off, and movement in the interior). I was given the runaround and bullshitted, which I do not appreciate at all.

I believe I'll be comfortable here for the remainder of my time in Vegas. I have been promised a free week's stay in the future for the inconvenience I experienced (second prize: TWO weeks stay!!). I assure you I will be looking to get that offer in writing.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

You Know You're In Las Vegas When… (#3)

During a poker tournament break, you walk past a line 30 guys deep to the men's room, into a blissfully uninhabited ladies' room.

And as you wash up before leaving, the woman standing at the next sink over is J.J. Liu. You both apply lip gloss before returning to the game.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

You Know You're In Vegas When... (#2)

You are walking into the Convention Center at the Rio. Just as you pass under the "Welcome to the World Series of Poker" banner you see you first familiar poker face, heading in the opposite direction: Eskimo Clark.

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You Know You're In Las Vegas When…

A young woman gets into the elevator with you. She is slim in the manner of exceedingly slim young women. She is wearing a baseball cap, and her long dark hair is pulled back in a ponytail. She has on designer jeans that are so designery that they do not trumpet an obvious label. She is serious of demeanor, and looks straight ahead at the elevator door as we descend.

A tiny little rat-dog scampers at her feet, sporting a jewel-incrusted collar. A cloud of perfume surrounds her.

You look at her obliquely. It wouldn't be polite to stare. She's an attractive person, not so much outstandingly pretty but very well-gathered, stylish, self-branded.

Her profile looks awfully familiar.

The elevator stops at the ground floor, and she steps out and briskly away, the practically-invisible miniature dog (still unleashed) skittering after her. Your eyes track her as she rounds a corner. You turn to the people next to you and say, "You know who that was, don't you?"

They do not.

"That was the last woman standing from last year's Main Event. That was Tiffany Michelle."

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Soon and Very Soon

I am once again experiencing the psychological displacement that occurs when I'm getting ready to swap one location for another. I leave for Las Vegas in five days. I'm well on track for various chores, errands, and the Last Minute Laundry Ritual. It's just all a bit more complicated because I'm going to be away for a whole month.

In the run-up to my WSOP experience, I'm playing much less live poker (where things have been brutally rough for me of late). I've been signing up for large-field, multi-table tournaments online and practicing the skills that I think will be needed in June. So far, the results have been very encouraging, as I have cashed in four out of five events. It would be really nice to actually WIN something, however.

Hanging on to a substantial chiplead seems to be my biggest challenge. I think I'm going to experiment with folding-everything-but-superpremium-hands for a couple of levels next time I find myself way out in front. The game I played last night, I went from a very healthy second place to out in less than twenty hands. Granted, some of them were fairly ugly coolers, but still, my own play was nothing pretty either.

I was impressed by the hyper-aggressive action in that six-max, deepstack tournament. It was relentless pressure from start to finish: eight solid hours of raises and re-raises. Even with the very gradual blind structure, players were scrapping over every chip. I was completely wrung out afterward. I figure that I saw nearly as many hands in eight hours of online play as I would in a 14-hour day of live action. Stamina really matters.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

WSOP Schedule

Inquiring minds want to know: what WSOP events am I planning to play during my month in Las Vegas?

It looks like I'll play two regular NLHE events (#11 on June 4th, and #36 on June 18), and probably also the Ladies event (#17) on Sunday, June 7. I have mixed feelings about the Ladies event. On the one hand, I rather object to the ghettoization. On the other hand, if it brings more women into the game, I'm for it. On the third hand (look Ma! three hands!), it's undeniably the case that winning the Ladies event is likely to lead to Good Things® such as publicity and sponsorship, both of which ~ I freely admit ~ I would be delighted to have.

I also intend to play the sole Razz event (#44, June 22) on offer. I am not a great Razz player, but I also don't totally suck. Maybe I can give F-Train a run for his money.

In my wildest moments of tournament irresponsibility, I'm also considering playing the cheapo ~ well, relatively ~ HORSE event (#31, June 15). I harbor few illusions about my skill as a HORSE player. I am mediocre. I just think it would be really, really fun. So if I manage any success in the other games, I will probably do this one.

Five bracelets! (Is that too much to ask?)

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Saturday, May 9, 2009


I find myself looking forward with great enthusiasm to my sojourn in Las Vegas this June. I am genuinely psyched at the prospect of playing tournament poker at least three days a week, and at having the vaunted 55 cardrooms at my disposal the rest of the 24/7.

I have already booked my air travel, and am in the process of finalizing my lodging arrangements. If all goes well, I'll be close enough to the Rio to make it a short bus or taxi ride (I haven't yet decided whether I'm renting a car), but far enough away to be able to leave it totally behind when my day is over. I'm staying in a condo, so I'll have a real kitchen, a real bedroom, and a real living room. I'll be able to entertain company. I'll have a pool to swim in and a fitness room to work out in.

It will be absolutely essential for my well-being to make and stick to a well-structured schedule. I plan to take one day a week completely off from poker, to focus on on the three "Rs:" writing, recreation, and errands. I also intend to go to bed and wake at approximately the same time every day (that's likely to be about 3 am and 11 am, respectively).

My current thinking is that I'll play four WSOP events ~ the Razz event, one other limit event, and two no-limit events ~ and some yet-to-be-determined number of tournaments elsewhere (at the Venetian, for example). On days I don't play tournaments, I'll play cash games. If things go well, I'll think about trying to satellite into the Main Event, but honestly I really don't care if I don't get a lottery ticket to that game.

I know that my stay in Vegas will still constitute a small sample size upon which to base major life decisions. But it's also the best sample I'm going to get. I intend to make the very best of this opportunity that I can.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Me & Sig & Roy & Lion
I arrived home this morning on the red-eye in a state of total exhaustion. Mentally, physically, emotionally: I got nuthin'. This last week in Las Vegas has put me severely to the test, and ~ honestly ~ the results are not so pretty.

Here is a quick rundown of the highlights (the good stuff):
  1. Dinner with the bloggerati. Mentioned in my previous post.

  2. Hanging out with B.W.o.P. CK very kindly spent some time talking with me about life in Vegas and also introduced me to the O8 game at the Orleans.

  3. Playing poker with Cory Zeidman. The Grump describes the scene quite well. What he doesn't mention is that Cory and I played two hands together and chopped them both. In the second hand, I had Fido (K9), and flopped trips. Plenty 'o betting with banter. Turn was an Ace, River was an Ace. Cory showed 8 9 off. He cashed out shortly after and I asked if he would very kindly let me just win one outright next time we played together. He promised he would.

  4. Playing poker with Jamie Gold. I had been sitting in the Venetian Deepstack Sunday game for about an hour and a half when an unkempt, unshaven, dirty-fingernailed Jamie sat down three seats to my left. He was perfectly pleasant to everyone, and received the constant attentions of one of the massage therapists the entire time he was at the table. I took his big blind one time, but that was it. His game was utterly unremarkable and he busted out in about another hour and a half. He seemed awfully nice, but also the very picture of a poker degenerate. A few minutes after he went broke in the tournament I heard the name "Gold" called for a new 10/20 NL table in the Salon.

  5. Being a tourist and doing touristy things. For example, I saw the Treasure Island sirens & pirates show, which is about as silly and pointless as you could possibly ask for. The Grump was seeing it for the first time too (after three years in Vegas), which gives you an idea of just how much of a can't-miss it really is. As evidenced above, I also had my picture taken in a goofy way, which is pretty much de rigueur for a tourist, right? I played mini-golf. I saw a bad lightshow at the Fremont Street Experience (it was basically an extended commercial for LG). I visited Binions, but did not see the eponymous golden nugget across the way. Oh well, gotta leave something for the next visit.

  6. Getting my hotel completely comped again. That this was a such a thrill should give you some notion of how much of a trainwreck financially the rest of my trip was.

The bad stuff:
  • Only two profitable cash sessions, and those barely.

  • Three quite expensive tournament blanks.

  • At least three really dubious decisions for a lot of money, when I should have known better.

  • A growing sense of fatalism about my lack of success. (I knew when I was all in with my KK that I was up against AA. When my all in AA went down to 33, I just shrugged and mentally kicked the penguin on the way out.)

  • A sensation of dread about my impending month in Las Vegas. I no longer know whether I'm running bad or I am bad. I do know that I took another big hit to the bankroll, and will have to spend all of May rebuilding, just as I spent all of March rebuilding from February's trip. This does not bode well for my notion of being able to survive on poker in Las Vegas.

I saw a bit of Las Vegas beyond the Strip, and was brought face-to-face with the reality that it is fundamentally a desert wasteland with a car-dependent monoculture pasted down on top of it. During June I will hope to explore a bit more, to see if there are any signs of life and creativity to be found elsewhere in the city.

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Friday, April 17, 2009


Just a few quick notes before either 1) the WORTHLESS wifi in my hotel room craps out again or 2) I pass out from exhaustion and wake up with keyboard indentations in my face.

For the first time in my visit, Vegas was actually warm and sunny today. Rather nice, in fact. I was outside in it for all of about ten minutes as I walked from Harrah's to Bally's.

I played my first live game of Omaha Hi/Lo tonight. It was fun, but I didn't do especially well.

So far, I have not been making any money with the hold'em, either. On Thursday, I busted out of my first Deepstack tourney by misplaying AK. The cash games have mostly been an exercise in frustration. (OOooo the bad beat story I could tell from this evening, if I were allowed to do that.) Anywho, I'm once again at that place where I sincerely question my ability to play the game at all. Perhaps I should just hang it up.

That is not going to stop me from signing up for the Saturday Deepstack event, with its luscious one-hour blind levels. It is, however, beginning to feel like a do-or-die proposition for me. (No pressure!)

The social side of the trip has been far more rewarding. I very much enjoyed the dinner I shared with the Grump, F-Train, CK the BWoP, Short-stacked Shamus and his lovely Vera. Getting to know the people behind the blogs has been a pleasure.

I am trying to remind myself that if it weren't for poker I wouldn't have met any of these charming people, and that I should be grateful for that at least. It doesn't change the fact that I really, really, really need to take a hard look at my game. No one with the results I've been having for the last several months should even *think* about trying to earn a living playing cards.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Pre-Travel Travails

Well, there's the taxes. Everyone loves doing them, I know. I always leave them to absolutely the last minute, to ensure maximum stress and anxiety. And then there's the mad scramble for the documentation, etc. It's totally pathological, and I'm embarrassed to death by it, but there you go.

I actually like traveling, especially when the destination is one I'm actually anticipating that I will enjoy. What I don't like is the 48 hours or so before I travel. Mentally, I'm already THERE. That makes every little thing I have to do HERE a giant pain in the patootie (e.g., doing the taxes becomes 10x as unpleasant, if you can imagine that). Washing the dishes becomes horrendously miserable. Writing the note for the paper delivery person is an enormous burden. Hell, figuring out what to wear today (i.e., stuff I don't want to pack for the trip) is aggravating. The basic problem ~ that I'm still HERE instead of THERE ~ is completely insurmountable, and yet I manage to let it irritate me. This is utterly irrational, and you'd think that a person who'd spent a significant fraction of her life in various meditation practices would be able to rise above it.


I am still HERE, and I have these annoying tasks to accomplish and decisions (mostly minor) that have to be made, and it making me a cranky Cardgrrl. Expect little to no bloggage until I'm actually THERE; in practical terms that likely means Wednesday.

[Post Scriptum: Please don't forget to greet me with "Hey, Sis!" if you wish to make yourself known to me at the poker table.]

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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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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.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lord of The Fields

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

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

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

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

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

Let me count the ways!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Fish in the Desert

...That would be me.

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

Not pleased.

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

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

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

Status: bloodied but not bowed.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Back at Headquarters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

One Problem at a Time

So the car folks are saying my car is fixed. I will be going to get it shortly. If anything else goes wrong with it in the next six months I am going to sell it and get myself some kind of cheap gas-sipping metromobile. No more flushing money down the drain on this vehicle.

The confluence of no car, snow, and no home internet was making me INSANE.* After many frustrating conversations with Verizon tech support, they have finally agreed to send a technician to my place on Friday. I hereby predict that FRIDAY will be the first day I am required to actually go in for my jury duty ~ and I'll get impaneled too. Because that's just the way things are going.

On the plus side, my Vegas trip is completely locked in. Air tickets: bought. Hotel: booked (with comps 'n' all I'm going to be paying a grand total of $160 for 5 days' lodging). I start the trip about $500 in the hole, but that seems an entirely manageable sum. It is helpful to have this to look forward, as it inspires me to keep my eyes on the prize.

*I would like to offer a nod of thanks to the Friendship Heights Panera Bread (#3572), which has kept me in lattes and wifi during the car/DSL crisis.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Another Good News/Bad News Scenario

The good news: I've bought my plane tickets to Vegas and will be there from February 11 through the 16th. I am planning to participate in the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza and attendant cash game juiciness. I still have to determine where I'll be staying, but alea jacta est 'n' all that. I have also contacted a condo owner about renting a place for all of June, now that the 2009 WSOP schedule has been published. The process of actively making plans to do this is getting me all psyched up. For better or worse, I am putting myself well and truly to the test in the second half of my year's adventure.

The bad news: Freakin' car repair still not done. NOT DONE. As in unfinished. No car for me tonight. Words cannot express how very, very aggravating this is for me. Am I peeved? Yes, Sparky, I am downright peeved, and I don't care who knows it. This is EPIC FAIL. (I strongly suspect that the dealership is not telling me something. Since the repair is being done under warranty, I wouldn't be surprised if the problem was more extensive than originally identified.)

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Day 56: Back from Vegas

I am back, exhausted but cheerful. I have a cold (I always get sick after I go to Vegas). The circles under my eyes are especially dark. But I am well-pleased because I have determined, to my own satisfaction, that I am officially a not-bad poker-player.

My flight back was on USAirways, in a Boeing 757, and I had the misfortune to be seated in 8b, which has to be the most unpleasant seat in modern aviation. I was stuck between two voluminous muffins who, despite traveling together, insisted that they didn't want to sit together, but wanted me to be the meat in their plump sandwich. The row backs up against a bulkhead, so the seats don't recline. The gentleman in front of me, however, reclined so far back he was practically in my lap ~ perfectly positioned for me to give him a scalp massage. Then the woman on my right asked if she could lift up the armrest between the two of us, which was evidently not comfortable for her BECAUSE SHE WAS TOO BIG for the seat (think: seatbelt extender), so that she could further invade my extremely limited personal space (as if it weren't enough that her jacket was already draped over onto my arms). She got all huffy when I said no. If she had sat next to her traveling companion, they could have lifted the armrest between the two of them and overlapped each other at will, but noooooooo. To add insult to injury, row 8 is right across from the lavatory, so nasty chemical johnny fumes were wafting over us every three minutes for the duration of the entire flight. It was 4.5 hours of genuine unpleasantness; by the end of it I was thinking VERY UNCHARITABLE THOUGHTS in all directions.

Distorted self-portrait
[Squozed photo actually taken on airplane with PhotoBooth distortion.]

All of which I would have been much more prepared to tolerate if I'd gotten more than about 16 hours of sleep the entire time I was away. Which I did not. Or if Vegas had, oh I don't know, actually been warm (it was much nicer in DC then in the desert resort town). Or if the casino had been a little less righteously refrigerated. (Why oh why must they be so arctic? I am not entering another casino without a fleece hoodie. That's all there is to it. Style be damned.)

Okay, I had intended to be posting all the time I was there. I took my laptop, really I did. I also took workout clothes and going-out-on-the-town clothes, neither of which got any use either. Let's face it: if I'm traveling to play poker, I'm going to be in the casino playing poker 80% of the time. Fifteen percent of the time I'll be sleeping, and the remaining time will be divided between eating and talking with friends.

Some quick notes from my trip:

1. There's a reason I never drink at the poker table. On Saturday night/morning, after putting my time in "at the office," I joined some friends at another casino and decided to just play for fun and to be social. So I had a drink or six. Donked off my play money (which was fine, I had set it aside as such). And paid for the whole episode by feeling like crap the next day when I played in the noon tourney at the Venetian. Moral of the story: don't. Which I knew. In future, I will keep the entertainment portion of my travel in a non-alcoholic mode.

2. Table games are Satan. I believe I have covered this topic before, but I feel it bears repeating. No short term profit is worth the long-term losses and the concomitant tsurris. Just don't. Don't. Really. Playing against the house makes people stupid.

3. I went 0 for 3 cashes in tournaments. I didn't play in the most expensive one on Saturday with 40 minute blind levels, and that may have been a mistake, as the longer levels tend to work in my favor. But I was once again reminded how incredibly dependent tournament play is on luck. The escalating blind levels force you to gamble in ways that you never have to in a cash game. My best result was 30th of 240 (I was the last one standing from my A League companions in that one). Only one of our group made a final table, and she got seventh ~ a great showing.

4. Two-five no limit is definitely my game. I swam with the sharks on Saturday at the Venetian, and I survived. That five hours where more than half the table were obvious pros and regulars was the scariest game I have ever played in. I learned a lot but I was terrified the whole time. I played at several other 2/5 tables during my trip that were much, much softer, and they were positively relaxing by comparison. The upshot is: it takes a LOT to scare me now; I am becoming battle-hardened. Further good news is that I made a lot of money. I paid for all my expenses (travel and accommodation and tourney fees) and had a nice chunk left over too. It's hard to overstate what a warm glowy feeling it gives me to know that I can take on the talent at a place like the Venetian (which by the way is an awesome poker room).

5. I stayed, courtesy of another player, three out of the four nights in a deluxe room at the Venetian. It was, by several orders of magnitude, the nicest hotel room I've ever occupied. The bathroom was SICK. The bed was so comfortable that it made the four hours of sleep I got a night almost as good as six. The freakin' drapes were operated by remote control. And if you like TV, you would love this place: flat screens in every room. The whole thing was just insanely off the hook.

When I'm at a hotel, I usually put my toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, and other small necessaries in one of the room's glasses, by the sink. Which is what I did at the Venetian. When I returned to my room the first day, this is what greeted me in the bathroom:

Photo of toiletries
I expected the surgeon to knock on my door at any minute.

Ninja housekeepers, they were scary-good too. They whisked in and out and the place was impeccable. Now if only they didn't overdo the house stink (excuse me, "aroma") that they bombard you with when you arrive in the front reception area. It's really excessive.

I bought myself a little trinket to commemorate my victorious emergence from the shark tank. I will wear it proudly to my next poker game, where it will remind me that I've already beaten some really frightening players. My bankroll is growing along with my confidence; maybe someday I'll be the one striking terror into the hearts of my opponents.

Current live and online bankroll: 109%

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Day 51: Ready to Go

When I travel, the day before I leave is usually excruciating. Mentally, I'm already out the door, on the plane, getting a taxi, and at my destination.

And then I look around: what the hell am I doing still here??? Something is out of whack: I guess I have anticipatory soul-lag.

The effect is redoubled tonight by the undeniable fact that my endpoint for this trip is Las Vegas. Vegas, the mecca of poker players. Sin City. Land of excess, vulgarity, greed, desperation, and reckoning. I can hardly wait.

There is nothing politically correct about Las Vegas, and little that is socially redeeming. But now that I've decided to give my poker-playing pride of place as a career choice, I feel a little like the new hire who is being ushered into the boardroom at Headquarters. I'm about to be asked to give an account of myself. Will I measure up?

Last time I went to Las Vegas, the city kicked my butt hard. I got my ass handed to me on a platter, with an engraved invitation suggesting that I give it up because I SUCKED. I mostly ignored the suggestion, in part because ~ while acknowledging that I could certainly have played better (almost always true) ~ I also knew that I had gotten outrageously unlucky more than my fair share during that trip.

That was about six months ago. I'm pleased to say that I think I've actually learned quite a bit since then. My cash game is an order of magnitude better. And my head is in a very, very good place.

The plan is to play a mix of cash and deepstack tournaments. Essentially, I intend to earn my tournament buy-ins playing cash, then rinse and repeat as necessary. I'll be hanging out with a bunch of my A League colleagues a fair amount of the time; it will be fun to see how we all fare.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Day 48: Marathon

Fifteen straight hours of poker. I am completely exhausted, and can only cough up these few poor sentences before I drag myself off to church, then nap, then dinner.

I once again failed to cash in my A League end-of-quarter tournament (I bubbled, painfully). This is an ongoing travesty for me, and I'm embarrassed by it. I'm not sure why this particular especially lucrative prize continues to elude me. It is beyond frustrating.

On the upside, however, I cashed in the subsequent tournament, and did very, very well in the cash games between and after.

This is all well and good, but it is not terribly conducive to a well-ordered life, and I suspect I've just let myself in for a very nasty cold or something. I have been shredding my stamina for the last ten days or so, and it's bound to catch up with me.

I will probably be posting thinly for the next five days or so, as I try to get my life at least vaguely organized before my four-day trip to Vegas on October 9th. I've got a lot of ground to cover, and not a lot of time. And I need to try and bank some quality rest before I start up the madness again in Sin City.

Combined Live and Online Bankroll: 106%

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