Raise or Fold:  Learning (From) Poker

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

Monday, October 19, 2009

Big Sigh

Stacked T-Shirt

Did the designer of this idiotic thing even know what "stacked" means in a poker context? (Hint: It's not exactly something to boast about. And if the double-entendre refers to a "stacked deck," that's not much better.)

Who is the target consumer for this tank-top? Ignorant gals with big boobs? Or their stupid boyfriends?

As if there weren't enough dopey sexism in the poker world… thanks so much for your contribution, WSOP licensee!

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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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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Give The Bottle The Boot

I was reminded by this article in the Washington Post that I've been meaning to write a non-poker-related rant on the subject of bottled water in casinos ~ and for that matter everywhere ~ for some time now.

Those of you who want only poker content may cease reading right now.

I have long found it absurd that people will actually pay money for water in a plastic or glass bottle. Seriously? Here in the USA we have an extremely safe and reliable source of water in public systems throughout the country. If you don't particularly like the taste of your municipality's tap water, you can buy an inexpensive filtration system and render it entirely palatable in a matter of seconds.

An awful lot of fancy-pants bottled water is just plain or slightly doctored tap water with a snazzy label on non-biodegradable packaging, anyway. Why pay for that?

In a casino, they will give you bottled water for free (okay, you'll tip the waitress a buck if you're a decent human being). Does the low cost make the scenario any more acceptable?


There's just no excuse for bottled water in a country with a good public utility infrastructure. The resources that go into packaging and distributing bottled water are a complete waste of energy at every stage of the process. Manufacturing the bottles takes energy. Transporting the bottles takes energy. Disposing of or recycling the bottles takes energy. The whole chain is rife with waste and pollution.

At the Venetian in Las Vegas they proudly serve Fiji Water. Now, I will not argue the point that Fiji Water is delightfully refreshing. It is probably the nicest still bottled water there is. And it is absolutely execrable from an ecological point of view.

Think about it: they are shipping artesian water from an island in the South Pacific to the desert of Las Vegas. How can this be anything but obscene? Each bottle of that water must have a carbon footprint a mile wide. If you go to Fiji Green you'll see that the company itself acknowledges that it will have to work overtime to compensate for its negative impact on the environment. (And Fiji Water is probably one of the more responsible vendors of its ilk.) But honestly, no amount of carbon offsets makes this product sensible.

Please folks, consider filling up your own washable, reusable sports bottle with tap water. Don't participate in the ludicrousness that is the bottled-water industry. You'll save money and do one less thing to contribute to the degradation of our ecosystem.

(And while you're at it, ask for your casino beverage in a glass instead of a plastic cup. As far as I know, Las Vegas has no city-mandated recycling requirement or governmental recycling services for businesses or residents. All that plastic is headed straight for an incinerator or a landfill.)

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Nothing Is Ever Simple

I had it planned to a fare-thee-well, starting over a month ago. I had numerous communications back and forth trying to ensure that everything was just so, pre-arranged, and ready for me to walk in and settle down. And of course nothing has gone according to plan with my WSOP pad.

The agent was late in meeting me.

The unit I was supposed to occupy, selected with great care, had a plumbing problem in the kitchen, flooded, and was reportedly uninhabitable.

The place she gave me "for one night," has a gas leak, an unspeakable odor in the poorly-functioning air-conditioning, and an execrable and noisy view of dumpsters.

I am awaiting her return, at which time I fully expect to be put into A VERY NICE UNIT THAT WILL MAKE ME HAPPY.

Because right now? Not so happy.

[Update: I spent the night in a different unit. Acceptably comfortable but on the ground floor with views of the parking lot. I am assuming that something more closely resembling what I signed up for will be made available to me this evening. I'm not thrilled with the hassle of moving around, but hope this will get resolved.]

[More: The situation is NOT resolved. I am very disappointed in the way this is being handled by Berkshire Realty management.]

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Running Bad

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oops: too bad for you.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Poker Laughs (2)

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

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

The rant:

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

The complaint:

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

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

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

"Good hand???"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Perils of the Poker Lifestyle, cont.

As you know, I keep vampiric hours.

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I call BBS!

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

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

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

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

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Friday, February 27, 2009

It Is What It Is

(I'm in the mood for a good full-throated rant.)

The world is infested with fatuous, empty, pointless catch-phrases. Some of them have been foisted on us by commercial interests (think: advertising). Others come from pop-culture: movies, music, late night TV shows. Still others seem to have seeped out of the memetic petri dish that is high-school.

I don't know where "It is what it is" came from, but I can assure you I don't care. All I'm really interested in is that it should sink back into the primordial ooze of idiotic tautological redundancy from which it emerged.

Could there possibly be a more vacuous phrase?

I don't think so.

But it's not enough that the sentence is a waste of the breath required to utter it. No. It is also required that the speaker be enunciating it with an air of smug spiritual superiority.

Clearly you, the lucky recipient of this gem of wisdom, are insufficiently evolved to be able to appreciate its karmic, even zenlike, essential truthfulness. You are probably distracted by transitory emotions of rage, despair, resentment, or frustration. You should probably go meditate until you are capable of repeating "It is what it is" as a veritable mantra revealing the depths of reality.

It is the jewel in the lotus, man. Om!

There was a time when hearing "It is what it is" at the poker table would instantly launch me into high orbit tilt. No longer. Now I just conjure up a mental image of the individual who emitted it strapped to a chair, being forced to listen to Deepak Chopra for all eternity. This brings a buddha's smile of ineffable delight to my lips, and all is once again right with my world.

(There, I feel better now. How about you?)

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Super Monkey Life Tilt

Four hours of sleep.
Car trouble. More money spent, problem still not entirely resolved, and horrid service.
Tournament loss to donkey play.
Cash loss to even donkeyer players.
Plus, someone poured a glass full of sticky red liquor all over my beautiful new faux fur coat.


I should not play poker when I'm running this bad.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Pathetic Dribbles

Well, let's see...

I am expelling prodigious amounts of funny-colored phlegm from my sinus cavities. Delightful! On the plus side, I don't really feel sick. It's just as if someone turned on the snot spigot.

I finally managed to win something online, but just barely. I cashed in a Razz tournament (I was the overwhelming chip leader until the final table, at which point I bricked in EVERY. SINGLE. HAND. I played. Hero to zero in about an orbit. It was grotesque.) I also managed to cash in a no limit hold'em game ~ finally ~ but for a mere 3x my buy-in. Pretty dismal. God help me if I ever run this bad in brick & mortar games; it is unbelievably demoralizing.

The holidays have somewhat derailed the live game schedule in this area, so it's been quiet for the last few days. Tonight features an A League tournament, and ~ I hope ~ a visit to the Crime Scene game (which has been on hiatus). I am oh so ready to get my gambool on!

I'm trying to figure out when I can get to AC, given that I have jury duty for two weeks (I have to call in the night before every weekday) starting on the 16th. Also, since I have no idea if I'm going to be impanelled ~ perhaps even more than once ~ I'm having a hard time scheduling my Vegas trip.

I know, I know, I could come up with all sorts of devious ways to get out of jury duty. Previously, as a self-employed person, I generally claimed hardship and was dismissed. But now, although it would be a massive inconvenience, it wouldn't really be a hardship (unless the trial ran on and on). I feel as if I ought to be willing to perform my civic duty cheerfully, since my current occupation contributes exactly nothing to the greater social good.

Meanwhile, it's winter and gloomy and nasty outside, which is reducing my desire to get out and walk to nil. As a result, my festive-food-to-exercise ratio has gotten completely out of whack.

Also, after twenty-five years of computing, I finally spilled a mug of coffee into my desktop's keyboard. Now the question is: get a new keyboard or a new desktop system? I was hoping for an iMac revision out of today's Macworld keynote, but it looks like no such thing is in the offing.

All in all, seems like a perfect constellation of reasons to sit here and whine. But no! I shall gird my loins and get on with things! I am Cardgrrl, hear me moan roar!


Friday, November 14, 2008

Home Internet Connection Hosed

You cannot imagine the number of ways this is messing up my life. So far, no help from tech support. It has already cost me money.

TILT doesn't even begin to cover it. I am so frustrated I am ready to rip someone's lungs out and eat them raw.


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