Raise or Fold:  Learning (From) Poker

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

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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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

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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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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