Raise or Fold:  Learning (From) Poker

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

Monday, March 8, 2010

Leaving the Scene of the Crime

I won't be playing at the Crime Scene Game any more.

I had a good showing last night, and made myself whole from the previous loss, which was nice. I had fun playing, as I usually do there. I like hanging out with most of the players; I get along great with the hosts. The social aspects of the venue are a major part of its charm.


I've watched as meaningful percentages of the pot disappear again and again, in the form of redbirds palmed and pocketed by a dealer. I can live with a rake, as long as it's not excessive, but this practice is just unacceptable. If you are running a cash game, you need to make your rake predictable and visible. Sneaking money out of the pot destroys the integrity of the game, and turns an honest profit-making enterprise into thievery.

I don't want to play where people are being ripped off, no matter how congenial an environment it may be. It makes me sad to have to say goodbye, and I bear no ill-will to anyone, but I'm done.

[Update: Thanks for your supportive comments, friends, but I'm going to refrain from publishing or commenting further on this matter. Out of consideration for the many hours of enjoyable play I've had at this venue, I'm going to just let it be.]

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Easy Come, Easy Go

Except for, y'know, the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.

Last night's session at the Crime Scene Game was a prime example of why I dubbed it that in the first place. It was a bloodbath. I took about five brutal coolers. I should have left after the first one: I flopped a boat, Jacks full of Queens, and my opponent with Q8 caught the 8 on the river.

Things did not improve after that; I will spare you the gory details. But it seems that the pendulum has swung back to Business As Usual (aka "Crush Cardgrrl's Hopes & Dreams").


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Little Swing Back

I've now made 4 return visits to the Crime Scene Game, and booked 4 winning sessions. This is a pleasant change of affairs for me. My last session was a monster, and more than made up for the rather unfortunate series of bust-outs in higher-buy-in tournaments of late. I flopped a couple of huge hands, made a couple of sensible laydowns, and used my Miss Tighty image to take a few pots I had no right to. I played well, and I ran better than average. What's more, I didn't get coolered or bad-beated once, which was refreshing.

On the negative side of the equation: someone stole my phone, with all my data in a freely accessible state, and Apple's wipe mechanism didn't work in a timely-enough manner. I spent most of today on the phone with ATT and Apple getting my old phone up and running, and then the REST of the day changing passwords everywhere I could think of.

I hope to god the evildoers just jailbreak it and wipe it clean. Needless to say it's been a stressful and highly unpleasant experience.

Word to the wise: PUT A PASSWORD ON YOUR PHONE RIGHT NOW. (Yes, it's a tad inconvenient. But what I've been through in the last 24 hours is a whole lot more inconvenient.) And if you have an iPhone, DO NOT SUSPEND SERVICE ON YOUR ACCOUNT UNTIL YOUR WIPE COMMAND GOES THROUGH OR YOU ARE PRETTY SURE IT IS NEVER GOING TO. (I didn't do that, and the net effect is that the wipe command went through all right, but to my newly reinstated original iPhone, which resulted in a marathon support call to fix.

Apple/ATT want $400 to replace my 3GS. That ain't happening. I'll limp along with my OG iPhone until either Apple comes out with a newer model that I find irresistible or until next December, when I once again become eligible for the lower (i.e. within reason) pricing.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Miniature Rush

Not much going on in poker for me lately. I'm busy with other projects and the weather here has put a total kibosh on playing live for about two weeks now.

I have, however, been dabbling in the occasional session of Rush Poker. I'm playing 10NL (which, when I think about it, makes me laugh… this is the same woman who bought in to no less than four WSOP events last June!). My bankroll on Full Tilt had been decimated by tournament variance and some sloppy play on my part. I had, quite literally, only a few bucks left.

I've turned those few bucks into over a hundred playing 10NL, in about 12 hours of play, never buying in for more than $5 at a time. The composition of the player pool is pretty clearly divided into regulars and fish. I avoid the regulars and nosh on the fish. You will of course run into the usual cooler or bad beat, but never feeling pressed to play a hand out of position ~ and not wasting any time worrying about one's table image ~ makes for a pretty low-stress experience.

Rush poker is position, hand-reading, math, and cards. That's it. If you've got decent skills in those areas, micro-limit Rush Poker is like printing money (almost 100 big blinds an hour!). Well, okay, like printing small denomination stamps. But you get the idea. Nom nom nom nom nom.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

What A Rush

I've been playing much less frequently, and generally enjoying it more. Despite starting with a below-average stack, I managed to claw my way to fourth in the A League's end-of-quarter tournament. I hadn't played a lot of games during the season, so the fourth place freeroll finish gave a nice little boost to my ROI.

I joined another tournament series based in Arlington, mostly made up of folks I originally met playing pub poker (and some B Leaguers). I was really pleased with the way I played this game, and had I won my coin toss I would have been well-positioned to make some noise in the tournament. It was a rebuy, which isn't my favorite format. Other games are not rebuys and should suit me even better. I cheerfully recouped my investment in the tournament by playing in the cash game that broke out alongside.

I made returns to both the Capitol Hill and Crime Scene games, where I have achieved modest profits. All in all, 2010 results in live play have been satisfactory, and I've been having fun with it ~ which is the name of the game for me now.

Online, the massacre of horribleness continued. For my own amusement, and to prove that it's not all in my head, I've been taking screenshots of the insanely bad beats I've been dealt. Originally I planned to post them to the Book of Bad Beats, but I don't have the heart for it. It's too depressing. Maybe one day I'll do a massive dump (and I use the word advisedly) of all of them.

But then the heavens opened and angels sang and Full Tilt delivered its latest Spawn of Satan: Rush Poker. Rush Poker is multi-tabling without the multi (although if you're an insatiable action junkie you can indeed multi-table rush tables… cowabunga!). Here's everything you need to know about Rush Poker:
  • You see around 300 hands an hour.
  • You can play all of your hands in position if you want to.
  • Your HUD software may not be as useful, but if you play long enough you will start to recognize some of your opponents in the pool.
Long story short, I was truly down to my last $5 on Full Tilt when I started to play .05/.10 Rush Poker. In two sessions of about an hour and a half each, I have built up to about $60. SIXTY DOLLARS playing 10NL. It took me a little while to make the strategic adjustments needed, but I gotta say, for a quick, ADD-addled hit of profitable playing, Rush Poker is the 'nads. (Well, until the doomswitch kicks in, anyway.)

There are a couple of annoyances in the software, chief among them being that even if you select the "check/fold" or "fold to any bet" options in the big blind, you don't get whisked automatically to a new table unless you click the "Quick Fold" button too. That's just dumb, since the big blind is a timewaster in this game. I also worry that Rush Poker will cause the bad players to go broke quicker, give up, and never come back. I can only hope that Full Tilt has done some studies that show people are more likely to reload in this format than in others.

Looking ahead, I expect to make a trip to AC in February and I'm heading to Las Vegas again toward the end of March. The Vegas trip should be a Trifecta of Fun: PAO Meet-Up, AVP Meet-Up, and precious time with the Grump.

And finally, we're hearing that Charlestown WV will be opening their poker room in July (or thereabouts). That's just a couple of easy highway hours away, much less grueling than the trip to AC and definitely doable as a day trip. Sweet!

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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!

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Whole Lotta Nuthin Going On 'Round Here

I played in a tournament and a cash game last night. In the tournament, I lasted for more than 3.5 hours and didn't win a single pot. Not one. My three best starting hands were JJ, KQo, and A6o. I never had suited connectors or any other pocket pairs. I am quite sure that I've never before busted out of a tournament before without winning at least one hand somewhere along the way.

Below is a summary of the 100 starting hands I recorded in the cash game. The fact that it turns out to be an even hundred surprised me, I started keeping track about half an hour into my session, and had played no hands voluntarily to that point. The more than four-hour stretch (in two venues) prior during which I had essentially nothing playable was what prompted me to start taking notes.

2 Premium hands:
I won with Big Slick and lost with the Jacks.

4 Non-Premium Pocket Pairs:
I played all these hands and won with the 99. No sets.

3 Medium Aces:
I played both AJ hands in position and won once.

2 Suited connectors:
I played both of these hands and won with the 98.

14 Weak Aces:
I played 5 of these hands, suited and in position, and won with A9 and A2.

5 Two-Broadway:
I played KQ twice in position and won once.

70 Junk:
   K9 K7 K6x3 K5 K4 K3K2x2
   Q9x2 Q7x2 Q6x2 Q3x3 Q2
   J9x2 J8 J7x2 J6x4 J5 J4x2 J3
   T9 T7 T6x4 T5x3 T2x3
   98 96 95x2 94 93x3 92 86 84 83
   76 75 74 73x2 72x2
   43 42x2
I played 5 of these hands either out of the blinds or on the button, and won with K3s, Q6s, K7s and J9s.

We were eight-handed for about an hour, and fluctuated between seven and six the rest of the time. Over the course of 3 hours or so, I voluntarily played approximately 20% of my hands. Of the hands I played, I won just over half. Unfortunately, the pots I lost were bigger than the ones I won. The biggest pot I lost was with the pocket 7s; I'm quite sure I was ahead on the flop, but the board got ugly and my opponent persuaded me he had chased and made a straight on the river. I folded to a bet that would have put me all-in to call. (Had I not lost that pot, I would have made a modest profit in the game.)

For me, the impression of the evening was of having very little to work with, and winning very little with the few strong hands I did have. If I hadn't played any of the weak suited Aces, the suited connectors, or the junk hands, the outcome would have been virtually identical. I made two good calls when my opponents were trying to buy pots, and I semi-bluffed successfully once and bluffed outright once for a win. I guesstimate I was moved off a better (but not made) hand a couple of times myself.

Overall, it was far more frustrating than interesting; I had few difficult decisions to make, and rarely any occasion to do anything flarey myself that would put another player to the test.

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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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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tweak Delivers

Tonight's visit to the Ikea Game seems to confirm the general usefulness of the game tweak. I modified it a bit given the slightly different profile of a few of the players, and I took note of where further modifications would be even more successful. Nonetheless, this was my first profitable visit to this venue in a while, and I have no hesitation in saying I know exactly why.

Could it really be this simple? My inclination is to be wildly skeptical. But we'll see…


Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Poker Gods Hate Me

I took two of the most horrendous beats of my life half an hour ago, back to back. In both cases my opponents went runner runner: in one case running deuces for a boat to beat my flopped 2nd nut flush, and in the other running nines to put trip nines on the board, counterfeiting my flopped-set-turned-boat by giving the other guy a bigger boat with his top pair crappy kicker.

This put an end to a long session in which I played some of the best, most solid, disciplined poker of my life. I had folded my way through literally hours of off-suited, unconnected, worthless hands. I had played my A game throughout. I had kept my patience and my cool, and shrugged off the first beat. The second, I have to say, got to me. The fact that I walked away with the remnants of my once-healthy stack (I had the second guy covered as well) feels like some kind of grotesque pyrrhic victory ~ at least I wasn't felted.

For what it's worth, the whole table was flabbergasted too. When other hardcore players look at you with shock and pity, you know you've really gotten reamed.

Every bad player blames bad luck.
Maybe that's me.
But tonight, I think it's fair to say that I was unlucky twice in a row, in fairly spectacular fashion.

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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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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

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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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Unclear On The Concept

The 2/5 game was wild on Saturday night, the wildest I’d ever seen at Harrah’s. It was playing deep, too; there was probably more than 20K on the table. It was Action Central: in the four hours I played on the main game (after being shifted from the must-move table, well up), there were maybe two contested pots worth less than $200. The average pot was closer to $400. Chips were sloshing from one end of the table to another.

After awhile I realized I didn’t have the stomach for this table anymore. I was just not willing to get it all in to the middle and rebuy, rebuy, rebuy the way it would be required to profit at this particular game. Despite previous oaths to the contrary, I decided to take my small loss for 2/5 and step down to 1/2.

As it turns out, this was a wise move. (In fact, previous stats to the contrary, I broke even at 2/5 but made a profit at 1/2 on this trip.) In the wee hours of the morning, my new table was stocked with the tired, stupid, and clueless, and it quickly became apparent that I was going to clean up here. I had the run of the joint until a young man sat down to my left and started to horn in on my action.

He had a nice line of patter. He was friendly and chatty, and it soon became apparent that his “Aw, shucks” routine was pure bullshit. He knew exactly what he was doing. It also turned out that he had recently moved to DC and was looking for games in my area. I immediately determined to tell him nothing. It was also clear that he quickly identified me as the only other person in our game who posed a threat, and he did his best to disarm me with charm. (As if.)

There was one other person at the table who obviously featured himself as a superior player. He had a few extra chips in front of him, and had evidently been prospering until my arrival. (Really, a blind wombat ought to have been successful at this table.) Shortly after BS-Boy sat down, he tangled with Superior Player.

I regret that I cannot reconstruct the action in the hand with any precision. Honestly, I wasn’t paying that much attention until the flop, when the heads-up dialog began. There was a big bet from SP.

BS-Boy: I raise. (He makes a bet that will require SP to be all-in if he calls. The board has two hearts, a queen, no straight possibilities.)

SP: Your two pair is no good, sir.

BS-Boy: I don’t have two pair.

SP: You make that bet with a draw? You have a flush draw?

BS-Boy: I have a flush draw, but not the one you think.

SP: Really, you are on a flush draw?

BS-Boy: I will show you if you fold.

SP: I call.

The board is run out with blanks. BS-Boy turns over the AQ of clubs, for top pair, top kicker. SP mucks angrily.

SP, indignantly, in high dudgeon, and with apparent total sincerity: You lied to me, sir! You said you were on a flush draw. You did not have a flush draw. You looked me straight in the face and lied! You have no integrity. The money means nothing to me, I have plenty of money, but I find your behavior deplorable.

BS-Boy: (Says nothing, is clearly boggled.)

Me: You are at a poker table. People often do not tell the truth.

SP: But he gave me his word! He has no integrity!

Me: This is poker. You know… bluffing…

SP: Is that how your parents raised you? I feel sorry for you that you were brought up without any morals. I do not wish to play with people like you two.

SP storms off.

Me, BS-Boy, Dealer, and indeed whole table: ??????

A few moments later it dawns on me… “two pair no good.” Oh, really? And yet somehow TPTK managed to take down the pot. (My best guess is that SP was on the nut heart flush draw himself.) The ridiculous thing is I think he was genuinely incensed at having been fibbed to, without even remembering his own bit of misdirection. It’s pretty clear that in fact BS-Boy was the more honest of the two liars (he had the nut club flush draw pre-flop)!

Oh, and the next time someone impugns my parents’ child-rearing skills or ethics, I will inform him or her that they are this very moment looking down upon the defamer from heaven and recommending to God immediate dispatch to Hades upon demise. No one disses my parents, dammit!

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Let's Go To The Tape

In the middle of the chip-shipping insanity that was Saturday night’s 2/5 game, there was an incident that brought together several important lessons about playing live poker.

The hand went down between an average even-tempered player (ETP) and a Crasian* who had been up and down like a yo-yo with ADD, rebuying multiple times. The Crasian was playing any two pre-flop and then betting aggressively if he caught any piece of the board. ETP had been picking his spots and building a nice stack, remaining polite and calm in the wake of a couple of horrendous beats. Again, I can’t remember the exact nature of the action. But the upshot of the matter was that there was tremendous action on a very wet board, with the likelihood of a broadway straight being very high.

The hand went to showdown. ETP announced, “I have an ace,” and flashed it. There was an ace on the board, giving him top pair. The Crasian threw his hand on the table face up. He had paired the river card, which was a ten. He also had a jack. To the inattentive, it might have looked as if he had made a straight, but he had not.

The dealer started pushing the pot to the Crasian, and ETP mucked his hand. Another player and I looked at each other with a questioning glance.

I spoke up. “Why is the pair of tens getting the pot? ETP had a pair of aces.” The other player chimed in to say he had seen the ace as well.

All hell broke loose. Crasian was busily stacking the chips.

ETP says he showed his hand. Dealer didn’t see it, and says it wasn’t properly tabled. Both I and the other player allow as how we didn’t register ETP’s second card.

Everyone at the table suggests that, for the good of the game, it would be sportsmanlike to chop the pot, since there is no doubt that in fact ETP had the winning hand. Crasian starts yelling defensively about how he was cheated out of some other pot at some other game in some other casino and refuses to consider it.

ETP calls the floor and asks them to go to surveillance tape. At this point everyone at the table realizes that he’s doomed. There’s no way the tape is going to have captured him flashing the Ace. Unsurprisingly, the floor comes back and says the pot result stands.

Crasian, who clearly knew he was beat, manages to win the pot on a technicality along with the disrespect of everyone at the table. It will probably cost him money in the long run.

Lessons from this event:
  1. Table your hand.

  2. Read your hand, your opponent's hand, and the board carefully and accurately.

  3. Do not let go of your hand until the pot is awarded correctly.

  4. Do not expect the surveillance tape to capture the action with enough detail to make up for failures of observation by people actually at the table or for your own mistakes.

  5. Don’t be a douchebag.

*I feel a cringe of embarrassment using this stereotyping term, except for the fact that it is exceedingly accurate in describing a small subset of poker players.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Good day; bad day.

I had a very good day on the personal front yesterday.

You remember what it's like when you have a giant, painful, unsightly pimple right near your lip? It hurts, it looks bad, it gets more and more bothersome day by day. You know you could have avoided it if you had skipped the fried chicken or exfoliated more assiduously or just plain not had normal teenage hormones or SOMETHING. You try to ignore it, you cover it up with make-up, your nice friends tell you "It's not that bad, really!" but you know better. You can't bear to look at yourself in the mirror, you start turning down social invitations, and the pain near your lip makes talking or kissing miserable. This stupid little zit is messing up your life. It starts to feel like an enormous zit, a zit the size of the Matterhorn. You are irrationally afraid it will somehow infect your brain and kill you.

And then one day, finally, you've had enough. You are sick of thinking about that thing and of trying to not think about it. You apply hot compresses to the pimple. You perform the operation. The zit gives up the little solid pillar of hardened matter at its core, the pus flows, and maybe a bit of blood. The distended flesh and irritated nerves of the surrounding area on your face feel immediate relief. And the healing begins almost instantly. In a little while, all trace of it will be gone and not only will no one else take note of it, but you'll barely remember it was ever there yourself.

Yesterday, I popped a big metaphorical zit in my life (the healing has already begun). The relief was extensive. I was in a very upbeat mood. What better time to go play poker, right?

But I also had a bad day yesterday, and it was my own damn fault.

I was on happy tilt. I was also on only about four and a half hours of sleep. As I drove to the Ikea game, I asked myself: "Is this wise? You're kinda tired." But I was also floating on the confidence engendered by eight consecutive winning sessions. "It's okay, self, I won't stay long."

Meh. It wasn't that I played terribly. I didn't, I played okay. But I got stuck early, and then lost my buy-in and then another top-up, and then I got felted. I think I made one dubious decision (that early loss), but other than that my reads were good ~ the cards just didn't fall my way.

Nonetheless: I SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN PLAYING. I was not capable of bringing my A game. And even if my B game was "good enough" for the circumstances, I should be practicing the discipline of only playing when I can do my best.

I made a series of unprofessional choices: I didn't make the correct decision in deciding to play in the first place. Nor did I make the correct decision to leave after I realized that I was going to want to dig myself out, but I was really too tired to make a marathon night of it. I could have saved a buy-in by acknowledging that and picking up and going. Had I been well-rested, I could easily have rebought yet again and stayed and ground it all back and more. But I wasn't, and I knew it, so I should have left earlier and taken the more modest loss.

Being a professional poker player is not just about the decisions you make at the table. It's also about the choices you make on your way to the table and in leaving the table and away from the table. My tweet to the contrary, being a pro is not a hat you put on while you're on the baize, it's an identity that has to inform your entire life.

Am I playing at being a poker player? Or am I really a pro?

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Where are the softest games?

If you visit the Brick & Mortar or Las Vegas Lifestyle forums on 2+2, or check out AllVegasPoker, you will find numerous threads of the following generic form:
Hey Guys, I'm going to Vegas/AC/Tunica/LA and I'm wondering where the softest 1/2 cash games are. Thanks!
The standard reply you see on the forums is:
Dude! All live poker is ridiculously soft compared to the internet. I crush whenever I play in a casino. But the action at [insert casino name here] is always especially donkalicious!
Honestly, whenever I see posts like this, I want to respond: "It's always softest wherever I'm playing. Y'all c'mon down!"

Because, seriously, think about it.
  1. Do you actually believe that there's a consistent answer as to where the softest games are? Are you so inexperienced that you don't understand that game complexion changes from hour to hour and day to day? That the sharks move to where the fish congregate and then away again; that the fish school in one place rather than another depending on a whole host of transient circumstances?

  2. The fact that you're asking the question betokens a certain naivété about the game, and an experienced player will be happy to have you sitting at his or her favorite happy hunting ground.

  3. On the other hand, if they look at your posting history, and you ~ despite the question ~ DO seem to have a clue, then why on earth would a player who's found a (temporarily) soft spot invite you to come and dilute his or her profit potential?
As for the standard, "Live poker is teh EZ, anyone who profits at 25NL online can crush!!!11!!1"... sure, whatevs. Except that live plays differently from online, and a lot of successful online players are lousy at adjusting. They get bored playing only 30 hands an hour and wind up spewing. They don't understand the importance of social interaction in keeping the table friendly and chase away the fish. They forget they're not home alone in their underwear and are giant tellboxes. Or ~ to be frank ~ they come with so many arrogant preconceptions about the abilities of live players that they completely fail to notice when someone at the table has their number and outplays them. Ooops!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009


It finally happened. After almost a year of playing poker at pretty much every opportunity, some internal gear shifted and the engine of my poker mind moved to a different place.

I played this past night at the Crime Scene Game. The room was hot and humid ~ in the new location there isn't yet any air-conditioning, just a couple of fans that sluggishly push around the moist DC summer air and the sweaty body heat generated by a roomful of players.

As is regrettably common, things started off badly for me. Within a few hours I had had to top up twice, and was down to less than a third of my chips. I felt a bit unfocussed and as if I weren't taking the game sufficiently seriously. The table was a little short-handed, and one of the players announced he was leaving. I started to despair about the sustainability of the game, and did my best to keep the table going by encouraging another to stay.

And then the heavens parted, angels sang, and a school of fish swam into the room. Suddenly we had a full table and lots of money to be won. I settled into my seat and told myself that I was not going to end the night without a significant profit. I just wasn't. I was going to sit in my chair and make good decisions and walk out at the end of the evening with twice as much money as I had put on the table. Whatever it took, that's what I was going to do.

And for the five hours after that I just ground it out. I watched each player until I knew what he or she was up to. I patiently picked my spots, and got my money in good. I didn't panic when I lost a pot; I didn't get overconfident when I won one. I didn't indulge in Fancy Play Syndrome. I just let other people play worse than I did, made it easy for them to make mistakes, and let go of my losing hands the moment I ascertained that bluffing would not be profitable. There was nothing flashy about my play, nothing to particularly boast about in terms of hero calls or fabulous reads. I just kept my head in the game and did the right thing almost every time.

I was not gambling. I was not trying to entertain myself. I was not looking to impress anyone. I was doing my job: I was playing poker.

Of all the money I've made playing cards, this $473 dollars of profit is somehow the most precious to me. Because as I made my way home in the rising morning light, I realized that I am a professional poker player. I have good-enough skills and the wherewithal to improve them. And ~ what's even more important ~ I have the right temperament: the patience, the evenness of keel, and the persistence to do what it takes to survive and profit.

I can make this work. Now I just have to decide if I want to.


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.]

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Is the curse broken?

I made my first foray to the Crime Scene Game since my return. It has moved to a new location, which I thought would be more inconvenient for me, but that actually turns out to be pretty much of a wash in terms of travel time. Except for one or two new faces, it was the regular cast of characters.

Would my time in Las Vegas affect how things went? Or would it be a return to the soul-crushing defeats of the last several months?

I do believe that the experience I accrued in Vegas influenced my decision-making ~ for the better. And, for the most part, I avoided the ass-end of variance on this outing. I played for about eight hours; as is typical for the CSG, it was something of a roller-coaster ride. Although I didn't manage to cash out at my peak profit, I did walk away enough ahead to feel satisfied with the night's effort.

All I can say is: this bodes well.


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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Friday, June 26, 2009

On The Good Side of Math

It's a weird thing.

When for months (and I'm seriously not exaggerating here) you've been on the wrong side of probability distributions, it feels utterly abnormal when the worst doesn't happen. Something as simple and generally routine as AA holding up ~ as it ought to do about 80% of the time ~ seems like a freakin' miracle.

It feels like the tide coming in.

But everyone knows the tide comes and goes (and yes, there's the occasional devastating tsunami too). There's nothing else to do but try to stay afloat and learn to navigate under all conditions.

Having lost for so long, I know how fragile any win actually is and how thin the margin provided by skill really is. I don't kid myself that three consecutive winning cash sessions mean much of anything. For perspective, my bankroll is now where it was back in November. It's as if the last five months never even happened.

I can only hope I stay on the good side of math for the next five days.

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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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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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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.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

With hands like this...

Royal Flush

...coming along every couple of days, you'd think I could turn a profit, wouldn't you? (I think I won the minimum with this.)

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Oh what a difference a day makes...

We are told, with good reason, not to be results oriented. The only thing that matters, we are instructed (and quite rightly), is that we make good decisions. We should then be content to let the chips fall as they may.

And it's true. It really is.


Every now and then, ya just gotta win. Otherwise the game is simply soul-crushing and any normal human being is going to give it the hell up. So when I finally had a winning session at the Crime Scene Game on Friday night, when I racked up my bricks of red and cashed out with a nice profit, it was balm to my battered poker ego. My big hands held up. I got away from my losers cheaply. I pulled off a couple of nifty bluffs. I played well, and I had average-to-good luck.

So today, I'm playing with my A League in Manassas. So far, I've busted out of two tournaments early, but made my buy-ins back playing cash. The key thing, though, is that I don't feel like a total, complete, hopeless loser today, and you know what?

That's nice. It's really nice.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Go With Your Read

You've heard this over and over: "go with your read." As I've taken a hard look at my play, one of the things I've noticed is how often I rationalize a decision I would never make if I took my read seriously. I am now trying consciously to both formulate a read (usually a hand range, but sometimes either more or less specific) AND to both refine and respect it as the hand proceeds.

Here are two cases from last night's Crime Scene Game.

#1: I am in middle position with a relatively short stack. There is a limp in early position, I limp in with 10 J suited, it folds to small blind who calls, and the big blind checks his option. The flop is J 7 5 rainbow. The small blind and big blind check, I make a half-pot bet with top pair. The small blind calls, the big blind folds.

The small blind is one of the people who runs the CSG. He is a canny player, and he knows my betting patterns better than I'd like. The check-call tells me that something about that flop appeals to him, but I don't think he's floating my bet with air or with bottom pair. It's possible he has a straight draw, but I think the most likely scenario here is that he's got a 7, he wants to see whether something will develop for his hand, and he's also keeping an eye on me to make sure that I wasn't just making a position bet with air myself.

The turn is a 10. Now I have two pair. Small blind checks. I check behind, purely as a trapping play. I'm pretty sure I'm good here, and there are very few cards that I fear on the river. I am hoping that my opponent will see my check behind as weakness. With most other players in this game I would have bet the turn, but I feel I'll be able to extract most value this way.

Except that the river is a 7. I am now not a happy camper; this is the worst possible card for me. After some hemming and hawing, the small blind goes all in (he has me covered). Is there any hand he could possibly do this with that doesn't have me beat? Even more to the point: am I persuaded that my original read was right?

I sit there for awhile, but honestly most of that time is occupied with me making my peace with the fact that I'm beat. I am totally persuaded he has a 7. I am toast: I fold. [My opponent later told me that he thought I had a straight with 89, that he shoved because he had a 7s full of 10s on the river, thought that the overbet would look weak to me and that I would call. I am inclined to believe him.]

#2: I am in the small blind. Four limpers enter the pot ahead of me. I look at my hand and find KK (red). I make a 1.5xPot bet. I get one caller, from early position. The rest fold. The caller is an action player, who plays any two, but is especially fond of and almost always chases flush draws (he's pretty keen on straight draws too, even if they're gutshots). I've also seen him shove on a flush draw if he has the Ace or the King. The flop comes 9 5 2, two spades.

I do not want him to draw to the flush. I make a pot-sized bet, which is about a quarter of his stack. Without missing a beat he shoves it all into the middle. (I have him covered.) Now what?

Well, I'm getting 4:1 on a call, I think it's likely he's on a flush draw, maybe he's got a pair as well. But there's no way I'm laying down Kings in this spot to this player. I call. He shows a set of deuces. Amazingly, I catch one of my two outs on the turn and go set over set for the win when the river blanks.

I was wrong about his holdings, that time. But now I have been reminded that he'll limp-call a big raise with a tiny pair in the hole (In fact, this behavior is endemic to the CSG and I ran into a flopped set of 3s last night too, again when I had a big hand; on that occasion I laid down my AK top pair top kicker to an all-in reraise. Me, I'm folding those small pairs to a big raise pre-flop). But I don't regret going with my read, since I think a large percentage of the time it would have been right. I am, however, unabashedly grateful for the re-suck King.

So I still believe going with my read is a good practice, especially if I am re-evaluating and testing it on every street. There's little point in HAVING a read, after all, if you don't act upon it. Unless you are prepared to act on it, a "read" is just idle speculation, a sort of self-indulgent daydreaming. An accurate read that you base decisions upon? That, right there, is one big fundamental step towards having an edge.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A W is a W

It may be a small win, but it's a win.

I didn't cash in my A League tournament, but I did manage to grind out a small profit at the Crime Scene Game. This was mostly courtesy of finally getting value from some big hands that, mirabile dictu!, didn't get destroyed on the river.

Now I only have to do that about twenty times and I'll be back where I started before going to Vegas. Yay.

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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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Thursday, March 19, 2009

I had almost forgotten...

...how pleasant it is to win.

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

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

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

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which it did, a 5.

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

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

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

And then he called.

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

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

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

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The Skeptic Is Not Easily Made A Convert

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

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

I checked the flop. He checked behind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Thursday, February 26, 2009


That would be me.

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Coach Me, Dude!"

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

The context:

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

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

The hand:

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

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

The flop comes: 2 2 3 rainbow.

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

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

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

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

My take-away:

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

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

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Game Selection FTW

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

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

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

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Era of Reconstruction

Let the rebuilding begin.

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

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


Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Usual Suspects

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

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

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

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

The flop came: Js 10c 8s.

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

The turn was: 3c

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, February 6, 2009

LOL Donkaments

Except I'm not laughing.

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Really Bad Run With Aces

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

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

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

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Day 160: The Good with The Bad

I've been in a pretty foul frame of mind the last few days, and it hasn't improved the quality of my play one little bit. This afternoon found me throwing a magazine half-way across my living room, in sheer frustration. The angst was brought about by a combination of factors, the proximate cause being the abrupt accidental termination of an hour-and-a-half-long support call trying to address my currently VERY SHODDY high speed DSL connection. That was the final straw. It wasn't helped by the observation that, at that point, it was too late for me to get to the gym before my afternoon social engagement.

So I toddled off to a Chinese New Year party being thrown by my friend, the first one which she was hosting with her husband as the new parents of a one-year-old adopted from Taiwan. It was a chaotic scene, more appreciated for the quality and quantity of friends and good feelings than the material provisions. I had a lovely time, and I left a few hours later in a vastly improved mood.

I proceeded directly to the Crime Scene Game and went on something of a rush. There were a couple of unusually soft customers in the mix, I played well, and I quintupled my buy-in in relatively short order. I then gave a couple of buy-ins back, but by the time I cashed out, I was still in good shape. I should have left earlier, but I guess I got a little greedy.

Learning how not to start playing well only when coming from behind and how to consolidate and maintain a win remain two of my tougher challenges. It's two ends of the same problem. I also noticed that I started playing with scared money toward the end of the evening, when I began worrying about protecting my profits. (I definitely misplayed one hand because of that: I was much too passive and failed to make a continuation bet and/or a re-raise when I knew I ought to. Either play would have given me the pot.)

As is usually the case, these are things I know I'm doing wrong as I do them. I just have to find a way to STOP DOING THOSE THINGS. It's not rocket science, really.

Still, month six is off to a decent start.

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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!


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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Day 143: Not a Whole Lotta Action

The doldrums continue.

On Tuesday I placed 4th in my A League tournament, which was a cash but nothing to write home about (oh the irony! apparently it was worth blogging about, sorta kinda).

Then I skipped merrily over to the Crime Scene game, anticipating great juiciness. I had been informed that one of the most actiony of action players was attending. He brings huge variance to the game, but ultimately can only be described as the softest of soft targets. I was licking my chops.

The first half of the night I prospered mightily. I had more than doubled my money. Life was sweet.

And then I think I went on win-tilt. Or maybe not. In any case, I misplayed a hand that wound up with me going to head-to-head with the only really skillful player at the table. In the end, he turned over quad tens for the mortal nuts. He played it well, me, well... I should have just called his final weak bet rather than re-raising, and then certainly I should have folded to his big re-re-raise.

After that it was all downhill. I got pot-sized bets called down all the way to the river by the aforementioned action player who was holding BOTTOM PAIR. He caught his second pair on the river. His hand: six deuce. Subsequently I got coolered multiple times. In the end, I walked away down a buy-in.

Not a catastrophe, to be sure, but there's no denying that the quality of my play suffered the second half of the night. I have to avoid being cocky and I have to avoid being frustrated and demoralized. This game is all about keeping your head. I failed to maintain my equanimity and I paid for it.

Online, well, I'm approaching a return to the level I started at four and a half months ago. That's not a downswing, that's a bloodbath. I need to go back to the drawing board and take a hard look at the way I'm playing online, because these results are unacceptable.

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Day 136: Happy New Year!

I rang in 2009 at the office: three tournaments and a brief cash game. I chopped the second tournament (should have played it out!), but that was about it. I did make money.

Staggered home as the sun rose, slept 5 hours, and then went off to my Capitol Hill venue, where I played in a tournament in the afternoon and in a cash game in the evening. Chopped for second in the tournament, kicked ass in the cash game. The new running joke in this game, now, is to refer to me as "the professional." I am afraid they are going to be a little pissed when it turns out to be sorta true.

All in all, a satisfactory start to the new year. For the first time in a long, long time, I have a good feeling about this one....

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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.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 120: A Royal Success

Any day you make a royal flush and get paid is a damn good day.

I had a damn good day today.

I chopped my A League tournament. And I played in the Crime Scene game for a profit, including the royal flush draw (up and down) that I flopped and then saw completed on the river. I didn't make a lot on that hand, and I forgot to take a photo, but it was still a thrill.

I also almost pulled off the bluff of the century. Instead, I got bluffed myself, but I got the bluffer to show his hand after I folded and now I know what he looks like when he's raising light, or with air — a tell I was able to use extremely effectively in a subsequent hand and which will be good, I presume, for the foreseeable future. Whatever I lost acquiring that information was well worth the cost.

The best thing about the night's play, though, was that I played without any substantial error in both the tournament and the cash game. I did what I knew was right and I didn't get punished for it, which was nice.

I don't expect to play live tomorrow, which means that today closed out Month 4 for my live-play account. I had what I consider to be a very successful month. If I could truly sustain this level of profitability month after month, I could call myself a professional poker-player, and I could live (quite modestly) on my poker income.

Which would be AWESOME.

My ROI on live tournaments for the month: 0% (would have been 78% if I hadn't played the Circuit Event)
My ROI on live cash games for the month: 63%
Combined live ROI for the month: 56%

My combined live ROI to-date: 31%
My current live bankroll (including expenses): 124%

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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.

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