Raise or Fold:  Learning (From) Poker

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The End of An Era

Suddenly, but not entirely unexpectedly, the Commissioner and Treasurer of my A League have resigned. The A League has fallen on hard times lately: not enough games, not enough enthusiasm amongst the participants, and a shortage of folks willing to host. The steam has gone out of the enterprise, and internecine squabbles and personality conflicts have also taken their toll. I will, however, always be grateful to the A League for giving me a venue to learn how to play tournament poker for actual cash stakes, and I'll miss the routine of playing in a well-organized group. I am also confident that the friendships I've made amongst these players will endure.

In other breaking news, my B League hosted a small impromptu tourney last night and I won it. Not a whole lotta cabbage, but welcome nonetheless. I attribute it to the knitting I brought with me.

Finally, an important note: Blogger is discontinuing support for FTP publishing, which is what I use to host my blog on my server. As of May 1, all of us FTP users have to either migrate to Blogger/Google's servers or switch blogging software. Since I have no desire to have all of my writing at the mercy of Goo-we're-only-a-little-evil-gle, I will be migrating to a WordPress blog. This will cause disruptions. The painstakingly crafted design will probably evaporate. The RSS feed may change names. My archives may disappear, although I am working hard to avoid that.

If you want to keep following this blog, I recommend that you make sure your bookmark for my site is the canonical URL:
The next version, however (temporarily I hope) lame, will appear at that address.

Thanks so much for following along with me!

Labels: , ,

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Secret to Poker Success

Last night, in a moment of insomniac whimsy, I signed up for a $30 Deepstack NLHE tourney on Pokerstars. More than eight hours later, I won the damn thing, beating 114 other players.

Well, actually, we chopped it heads up, but I was the official winner.

So, winning the tourney 'n' all was nice, especially since it's the only winning of any sort I've done in quite some time, but the real joy was discovering how to mitigate the debilitating boredom and frustration of playing poker online.

It's simple: KNIT.

Knitting is soothing, meditative, calming. It has a de-stressing effect. It keeps the part of your monkey brain that would be cooking up REAL distraction pre-occupied with relatively simple and easily set-aside pastimes, so that when you're ready to turn your full attention to the game, you're not worried about what's going on, well, over there somewhere.

And the bonus: you generally get a knitted item to enjoy when you're done. "Free blankets for everyone! Yeah, that's the ticket!"

And yes, I do believe I may be the slightest bit punchy from lack of sleep? Whyever do you ask?

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

BBT: Count Me In

I'm not playing a whole lot of poker these days, but I can't resist the lure of a cheap seat to the WSOP. Look for me at the Mookie and perhaps Poker From the Rail. Read all about it here.

Labels: ,

Friday, January 22, 2010

I Wanna Play!

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker! The WBCOOP is a free online Poker tournament open to all Bloggers, so register on WBCOOP to play.

Registration code: 095798

All the cool kids are doing it, so I want to too! Besides, with my new relaxed attitude my results are bound to be better, right?

Labels: ,

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!

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Joy of Poker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I did, oh yes I did.

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

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

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

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

Labels: , , ,

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.

Labels: ,

Monday, October 5, 2009


Tournament Win
Believe me, I know a two-table $10 SNG is nothing to crow about. Really, I know this, I do. But if you had any idea how bad I've been running online, you'd appreciate that this constituted a major victory for me.

Is there any possibility that the doomswitch has been turned off?


Labels: ,

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!

Labels: , ,

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.]

Labels: , , ,

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!

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 14, 2009

I know I said no more bad beat stories...

But this is the way I've been running in big tournaments online lately.

tourney bustout

Labels: ,

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Good Day Online

I came in 11th in a 1500 person MTT on Full Tilt. And then I won a smallish MTT O8 Hi/Lo game. Neither of these accomplishments ranks as a major achievement, but it does make me realize that I have been leaving something important out of my ponderings: namely, the possibility of earning some of my keep online.

Playing online is not my favorite thing. I wouldn't want to do it all the time. But I have been having steadily increasing amounts of success in MTTs, and cashing at a pretty good pace lately. I've also been doing surprisingly well playing ~ of all things ~ small stakes LHE. There's every reason to believe that a certain amount of online play could contribute to my baseline income in a decent way.

This puts some interesting ideas in my head. I may actually be able to have my cake and eat it too.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Limit Tournament Third Place

I can't even remember why I decided to play a $4 LIMIT donkament starting at 9 at night. Especially one with 896 entrants. Seriously, this was just a demented choice from start to finish.

But I got past 893 of my opponents, despite making a couple of REALLY boneheaded plays. (Everyone else was just that much worse, which is saying something!) To be fair, I definitely had my luckbox moments too.

It's been a while since I had a strong finish in a big online MTT. So this feels kinda nice. Thanks to all the kind folks who railed me for hours. (You people are nuts.)

Labels: , ,

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Must. Play. Poker.

Despite having arrived home at an unseemly hour of the morning, and then getting only about five hours of low-quality mid-day sleep, I found myself impelled to play in my A League's first tournament of the new quarter.

I was fortunate enough to win the game. We all know you can't win a tournament without getting lucky a couple of times; I was helped along on this occasion by my first ever straight flush with the group. But I have to say that playing poker in Las Vegas for a solid month also contributed to my success. I was making accurate reads and timely moves that now come to me much more naturally and fluidly than ever before.

Practice definitely matters. Having seen a wide variety of situations and having encountered a broad spectrum of styles makes a difference.

Something important has changed as a result of my time in Las Vegas: I can no longer be intimidated. After the variety of winning and losing experiences I've had, no one at the table and nothing anyone does can terrorize me. I will think through my options carefully, I will evaluate a broad spectrum of factors. But the choice I make will not be influenced by fear.

You can't scare me anymore, folks. Give it up. I am officially unafraid.

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Triple The Disappointment

I hate writing bust-out post-mortems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labels: , ,

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.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Long Haul

Playing lots of tournaments is, it turns out, completely exhausting. Sunday I basically shut down at about 9pm in the evening and had to come home and just veg for many hours.

I decided not to play the Razz tournament today. It was too expensive an entry fee for a game I'm just not that good at. (I played in the Grand NLHE tourney at the Nugget instead and made it until about 10 o'clock at night.) I've decided to save up my pennies and enter Event #52, the Triple Chance No Limit Hold'em Tournament.

There are couple of reasons for this. One is that it offers a truly meaningful 9,000 in chips to go along with the one-hour blind levels. That's potentially an AWFUL LOT of play.

Another is the novelty of the structure, where you can start with as little as 3,000 and then effectively "rebuy" 3,000 at a time twice more until the end of the third level. At the end of the third level you automatically get the rest of your chips if you haven't deployed them already. There are some interesting strategic possibilities. It's the first time that this structure has been offered at the WSOP, so it'll be new to everyone.

Finally, the more expensive buy-in and the Sunday start will probably curtail the number of entries.

All told, this seems like a good combination of features for me. It'll likely be my last hurrah at the WSOP this year.

Labels: ,

Friday, June 19, 2009

I Made A Rookie Mistake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm not done yet.

Labels: , ,

WSOP Event #36 Day 2 Preview

Can anyone explain to me why YouTube choices the most unflattering keyframe possible, rather than ~ say ~ the obvious choices of the starting or ending frames of the video? Annoying!

Labels: , ,

I Make It To Day 2

It's very late (early), so this is going to be a short note.

At 1:30 am, I ended Day 1 of Event 36 with exactly 82,000 chips. Average chipstack was 47,500. Out of a starting field of 1695, 213 are left. Of those, 171 will cash.

I will be at Orange 81, Seat 8 tomorrow.

I am immensely thrilled to have survived this far. No matter what happens when action resumes at 2 pm tomorrow, I can retain the satisfaction of having achieved this modest milestone. I made consistently good decisions, and I fortuitously got the best of a situation that ought to have slowed me way down (I sucked out KK over AA against the very good player to my left).

Thank you all for your expressions of support, they are tremendously encouraging. My deep and ongoing gratitude also to the Grump, who has been a wonderful companion throughout.

Starting tomorrow, too, a group of friends (and rivals!) from my A League arrive to tear up Las Vegas. It'll be great fun to share the WSOP experience with them.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

If At First You Don't Succeed...

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

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

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

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

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different

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

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

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

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

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Long Day's Journey Into Night

I played in the Golden Nugget's $240 NLHE deepstack "Grand" tournament today. It started at noon, and I busted out at about 11:30 pm, 18th of 201.

Here's the good news: I played my A game throughout. I was very pleased with the quality of the decisions I made, including several big laydowns, a couple of hero calls, and a few appropriate major re-raises or shoves. I do not know how to play poker any better than I played today.

Every big hit I took, I had my money in good. People had to beat the odds to beat me. Had the cards fallen my way I would have had an enormous chipstack heading deeper into the money. I have no regrets about my choices in this tournament.

The bad news: my net profit from almost 12 hours of playing was $80.

I am tired (really tired), but at peace. One of these days, I firmly believe, my good decisions will be rewarded proportionately, and I'll make a boatload of money.

The structure for the Grand series is exactly my sort of game: generous stacks and very gradual blind level increases. It rewards patience, observation, and strategic thinking. These tournaments are a VERY good value for the money. Their payout schedule, on the other hand, was ridiculous this evening. They paid 27 out of 201, with the bottom 7 getting their buy-in back. Ten hours of poker to get your money back??? They originally announced they would pay 18 and they should have stuck with that. If you make the money you should be guaranteed a profit on your buy-in.

The Nugget is also nickel-and-diming tournament players in a disgraceful way. The drinks service, for example, extends to soda, water, tea, and coffee only. If you want alcohol or Red Bull, be prepared to shell out additional cash. What's more, the Golden Nugget makes non-guests pay to park in their garage. That is just DOPEY, in my opinion. They should be doing everything possible to make it convenient and pleasant for people to play in their joint.

Tomorrow is a logistics and recreation day. My lodging situation has been sorted out (more on that in a future post), and I need to go shopping and stock up my larder. I'll also be seeing the Cirque du Soleil show "Love" in the evening, which I'm really looking forward to. I feel that I've finally got my feet under me, and should be able to get the kind of nutrition, sleep, relaxation, and exercise that will allow me to do my best.

Labels: ,

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The adventure begins...

Cardgrrl at WSOP Event 11

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Minor Win

I managed to hold on to my points lead to the end of the B League season, and thus won the cash prize and another little citation on the Plaque of Winners. It's not a whole lot of money, but it's nice for the ego quotient, considering how grim things have been in my live play of late.

I'll take it! (It'll probably almost cover whatever it costs to fix my car. Ugh.)

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Soon and Very Soon

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

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

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

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

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, May 23, 2009

WSOP Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

Labels: , ,

Thursday, May 21, 2009

2000+ Good Decisions

What does it take to win a large multi-table tournament, one that has thousands of entrants and runs over the course of three days?

By my calculations, it takes about two thousand good decisions. I figure a three-day event lasts a total of about 34 hours. At a well-run live game, you can see approximately 30 hands an hour. Of those, you'll only play a certain precentage (all told, including short-handed, and heads-up), let's say 20 percent. Some of the decisions will be binary (e.g., continue to play the hand or fold), but a lot of them will have multiple sub-elements (e.g.: choose to raise, and decide how much). I settled on 2000 as a nice round number.

At first blush, two thousand decisions doesn't seem like a lot. But ask yourself: how many times have you gone through the same motion 2000 times without error? (Breathing, blinking, and other autonomic functions don't count.) Do you think you could add 2000 columns of numbers, for example, without once making a mistake? Making 2000 correct decisions in a row, under pressure, is a huge challenge.

Sure, you could make a mistake or two and recover. If you're lucky. But in a tournament, one mistake can also be completely disastrous. You don't have to make the optimal play every time, but you do have to avoid making bad decisions. You have to do the right thing over and over, hour after hour, for two and a half long days of playing.

The next time you describe someone who wins a large-field tournament as a luckbox, remember this. Sure, they probably did run like god. Nobody gets through a huge game like that without running hotter than the sun, having good hands hold up and sucking out when necessary. But nobody makes it through a field that big on luck alone, either. Those people sitting at the final table probably made more good decisions in a row to get there than any athlete in the history of the world has ever made good plays in a row. That takes mental toughness, concentration, and stamina, and it is much harder to do than it looks.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

You Win Some...

...but not many.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 1, 2009

One Good Decision At A Time

In a refreshing turn of events, I won my B League tournament last night, outlasting a field of 25 entrants. Although I played well, I cannot take any credit for the very nice run of cards I also enjoyed. It is a truism that no one wins a tournament without getting lucky several times, and having been at the ugly end of the luck stick many, many times of late, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the truth of the saying when I benefit from it for a change. I have solidified my position atop the leaderboard; with two games to go in the season, it will be very difficult for anyone to catch me.

I am reminded that, above all, in tournaments you cannot afford to make a mistake. Every mistake you make requires an extra-large portion of subsequent good luck to recover from it. Your fundamental job is to minimize the role that probability plays in your success. Don't let variance contribute more than its absolutely unavoidable share to the outcome! That means playing smart: hand selection, position, tournament stage strategy, player analysis, stack management, pot odds and control, and on and on. Any lapse in attention or discipline can be very costly.

Tonight is my last crack at the WSOP subscription series. I am currently in fifth position. The first two positions are pretty much locked up. In order to collect one of the payouts, I have to move up at least one step on the ladder. Several other players are also in the hunt. The challenge for me is to keep my eye on the prize, make one good decision after another, and just skip the mistakes. The rest is in the hands of the poker gods.

[Update: WSOP FAIL. By a couple of points. Gah.]

Labels: ,

Monday, April 27, 2009

Gitty-up with the Grump

This evening the Poker Grump is hosting a private HORSE tournament on Pokerstars. The buy-in is a measly $10. Come play with the folks you've been reading about: you know you want to!
Learn all about it here.

Labels: , ,

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Pain

I busted out of my WSOP subscription series tonight with QQ running into AA. I've replayed the hand in my head over and over, and I don't honestly see what I could have done differently.

The fact that I got slowrolled (no way the AA was laying down to my shove, we were heads up, and yet he hemmed and hawed and finally said, "I have to call you" with apparent great reluctance) by someone who has slowrolled me before (that time his QQ flopped a set to beat my AA) didn't help. His penchant for drama at other people's expense is truly obnoxious. Just call in a timely fashion and show me the bad news, dude.

When you cry tears of frustration on the ride home, that's probably a clue that you ought to give it a rest for awhile. I will not be playing poker live for several days, probably until Tuesday.

I'm here to testify, however, that knowing you did your best is just not enough to make the pain go away when you are getting smacked over and over. I cannot imagine EVER running good enough to counterbalance this crap.

Labels: , ,

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.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

There may be something to this 2-4 business...

Pokerstars screenshot

It had to happen one day. I feel slightly ashamed. But I assume that the Master of the Deuce-Four is pleased with the progress of the postulant.

I went on to win the game.

[Nota bene: This is not an April Fools' Day joke.]

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A HORSE Tale: Or, Chivalry is Not Dead

…Which, I suppose, is the only possible explanation for the outcome of last night's best of five heads-up HORSE tournaments. This was a rematch to give your loyal correspondent a chance to redeem her pride after having previously gone down in shameful defeat.

Alas, I am not so vainglorious as to have taken screenshots of my brilliant plays/suckouts or victories. So you'll have to take my word for it that it went: win, loss, loss, win, win.

We can only conclude that Sir Rakewell felt very, very sorry for me and decided to throw this round of matches, having every confidence that he could win the next series handily (for best of three), or failing that, that he could come back and crush me the two after that (for best of five).

What could possibly go wrong?

[Postscript: I feel I should add that these games are so insanely entertaining that any right-thinking society would make them illegal just on the general principle that their citizenry should not be having so much damned fun.]

Labels: , ,

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.

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Disparate Results

I played in a deepstack tournament last night that celebrated my A League's 500th game. (I have only been around for the last couple of years, but the league has a much longer history that antedates my participation.)

This game featured a larger-than-usual buy-in. There were sixteen participants, and I finished second. As with any tournament, to make the money I needed to get luckier than I deserved a couple of times. But also, with a few minor wobbles, I played every hand as best I know how and I remained focused throughout. I came back from a short stack though a combination of good fortune, patience, and fierce selective aggression.

This is in stark contrast to my performance during the WSOP subscription series with essentially the same bunch of players. You would think that if there were a causal relationship between the size of the stakes and my likeliness to go off the rails, that that correlation would manifest itself in these bigger buy-in games as well. But, for what it's worth, I won the two previous such games that the A League has held.

Now, obviously, in both cases the sample size is small. We've had 8 WSOP-series games and 3 bigger buy-in tournaments. It's an impossibly small number from which to derive any statistically meaningful information. It could all just be coincidence and variance. But something about this pattern is nagging at me, and I'd like to see if I can figure out whether there's anything more to it than a normal distribution of results.

One other thing worth mentioning: the deepstack structures (one with antes, one without) that we use for these more expensive games really go a long way to making skill a larger component of the outcome. I was impressed last night by how long it took to thin the field. We started with 10K in chips, had 30 minute blind levels, and didn't get down to 10 players until after nearly 7 hours. This group's average skill-level has also improved dramatically in the two years I've been playing with them. The level of play compares favorably with that I've encountered in big tournaments in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

If I ever manage to succeed in a major poker tournament, it will be at least in part because of the many hours of experience I've accumulated playing against tough opponents in my homegrown poker league. I am fortunate to have been able to participate in a well-run organization with other players who are dedicated students of the game.

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bad Performance

I once again donked out of my WSOP subscription series tournament with another lousy result. I am utterly embarrassed by how badly I'm doing in these games.

I am going to have to do some serious thinking about why my play has deteriorated so notably in this particular series. There's no getting around the numerous mistakes I've been making.

I could have overcome the bad luck I ran into if I had managed to play better. Lack of sleep and exercise could be contributing factors, but again no excuse is really adequate to the degree of suckage I've exhibited so far.

It's a good thing I won my B League game on Thursday; otherwise, my morale would be awfully low right now. As it is, I must get some rest, and get my head together for my foray to Atlantic City tomorrow. Because I cannot allow myself to be bent out of the shape by this latest debacle.

By the way, major blog posting is likely to be light to negligible while I'm in AC. I will, however, try to keep updating via Twitter.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Some Solace

I managed to cash in an online Razz tournament this evening. (Thank god for Razz.) And I won a satellite seat which I promptly traded in for the tournament dollars. And then I won a single table sit'n'go, largely because (mirabile dictu) my Aces didn't get cracked.

Other than that, the astounding suckoutage continues in both cash and tournaments. My favorite being my bustout from the 100K earlier tonight when my AK went down in flames to A2, as my opponent flopped the wheel. Spectacular!

Just when you think you've seen every possible way to lose when massively ahead, the poker gods come up with new and creative ways to mess with your mind.

I think I'm going to revert to playing nothing online but sit'n'gos and Razz tournaments for a good long while now. I'm feeling pretty punchy from my recent results in cash games and hold'em MTTs, and I might as well concentrate on my roots until my confidence returns.

Labels: ,

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.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Opportunity Knocking?

On my last visit to the Crime Scene Game, the lovely cop who helps run the joint took me by the elbow and urgently steered me into the back room. "I need to talk to you."

You may now picture my blood pressure rising several points as I try to anticipate what deep shit I have somehow gotten myself into.

He said: "TK [one of the few other regular female players; she's also a dealer] is a major actor in putting together a charity poker event coming up in March. She is going to get four free entries into this $1000 game for her participation. They pay great prizes to the top ten, and the winner gets a seat in the WSOP Main Event."

Me: "Wow, that's awesome!"

Him: "TK wants to put together a kickass group. She's playing, and she's giving a seat to JR [the only regular player ~ also a dealer ~ I fear at the CSG] and me. She thinks you have a great style, and JR and I both think you're the best possible fourth. If one of us wins the thing, and goes on to cash in the Main Event, we'll split the winnings four ways. What do you think?"

Me: "I am so in."

Okay, first of all, a potential freeroll to the Main Event? SCORE.

And B, how nice to have been given such a strong vote of confidence by people who've watched me play week after week for months now. I am deeply, deeply flattered by this. TK would officially become my first staker.

You may now picture me doing the excited happy dance.

Labels: , ,

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?)

Labels: ,

Monday, January 26, 2009

Another Good News/Bad News Scenario

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

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

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, January 23, 2009

When they say "deep stack" they are not kidding!

I'm playing in a deepstack tournament on Pokerstars: 5000 in starting chips, THIRTY MINUTE blind levels, and a very gradual blind structure. We've been playing for four and a half hours now, and the blinds are only 200/400 with a 50 ante! The original field of 81 has been reduced to 18. Nine will be paid. This type of tournament should play to my strengths.

I'm currently third in chips. Please wish me luck!

Update: Finished 7th. Got two-outered for most of my chips (99 v. 22) and then 6-outered on the river for the rest of them (99 v. KQ). Apparently nines are not particularly lucky for me. Oh well! Played my ass off for six+ hours, and went deep. Made some money. Overall, it doesn't suck. Thanks for the friendly railing, Joxum! Off to bed now...

Labels: ,

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Always the Bridesmaid

It could have been a lot worse.

I came second in my A League's End of Quarter tournament. I didn't win the coveted bracelet, but we chopped most of the money when we were down to three, so we all got better than second place money.

I was runner-up again in the second game of the night, for a decent profit.

I'm gonna donk off twenty-bucks playing cash before I hit the road. I feel like just hacking around for fun. (This is probably a leak.)


Thursday, January 8, 2009

More frustration

Didn't even make it to the final table of my B League.

Then, on the way to my Capitol Hill game, my car's overheating engine warning light started flashing. This is, mind you, the same car I just had in for very expensive maintenance yesterday. So I pulled over, waited for it to cool down, and then went straight home. Of course the light came on again, as well as the check-engine light, causing me nothing but anxiety the whole way. I have an appointment for tomorrow morning, and it is to be hoped that they can solve the problem in one day, as I'm planning to drive to AC on Monday. I suppose I should be grateful if I can get the car to the shop without the engine melting down.

NOT a happy camper. (God only knows what this fix will cost.) File under: life tilt.

I did manage to cash in a Omaha Hi/Lo game online. Barely, but hey, I'll take what I can get at this point.

Labels: , ,

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.

Labels: , ,

Friday, January 2, 2009

Day 137: Stupid Mistake

I made an awful, awful call for my tournament life in my WSOP subscription series. I then played a cash game and made back my tournament buy-in (and more), but not my dues for the series. I'm going to have to play error-free poker for the rest of these games, AND get lucky to win or cash a whole bunch of times as well.

I blame it on the two Red Bulls in combination with the Excedrin I took. Waaaaaay too much caffeine.

Note to self: do not do that again. EVER.


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....

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day 127: Veni, Vidi, Vici

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labels: , ,

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%

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 119: Wiped

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

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

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

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


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

Friday: berry berry good, as previously discussed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Let the Shilling Begin...

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

The WBCOOP is an online Poker tournament open to all Bloggers.

Registration code: 156182

Labels: ,

Friday, November 28, 2008

Day 102: I'm A Steamroller, Baby

...and I'm gonna roll all over you!

I feel like my game gets a whole lot better every time I go and play seriously in a casino. My A League had a poker marathon day today, and I played in four tournaments.


Game 1: chopped for 1st
Game 2: 2nd
Game 3: chopped for 1st
Game 4: chopped for 1st

Why all the chops? There were people impatiently waiting to play the next game, except for the last one which ran very late. I already have my qualifying win for the League end-of-quarter tournament, so while the extra money for an outright win would be nice, it's just not that big a deal, and I get goodwill points for keeping things moving along.

Now, to be candid, I did run pretty well. I got lucky when I needed to. I was NOT card dead, and I managed to hit the flop my fair share of times. I also played ~ and I do not say this lightly ~ almost entirely error-free poker. I made great calls, I made great laydowns, I made great bluffs, and I made great value bets. I played really, really well, and I was playing BY WIRE. I was in the zone: intuition and logical thinking in sync. What a great feeling!

If I can keep this up, I am going to be very, very hard to beat.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day 99: The Reckoning

Okay, just a quick note to say that I managed to do very nicely indeed in two different cash games tonight, the Capitol Hill game and the Crime Scene game.

I realize also that I failed to note any stats from the landmark end of Month Three. This is mostly because I'd forgotten to close out Month Three (which ended before my latest AC trip) ~ and I probably forgot to do that in part because, subconsciously anyway, I knew that Month 3 was going to go down in the books as my first losing month. Which it was.

Month 1 ROI: 34%
Month 2 ROI: 27%
Month 3 ROI: -13%
Month 4 is off to a good start, however, currently at: 29%

YTD ROI: 18% (including travel expenses)
YTD Live bankroll: 112% (ditto)

I have put sums totaling 65% of my bankroll into play over the course of three months. However, I have never put more than 4% of my live 'roll at risk at any one time.

Tournaments are by far my most reliable earners. My live tournament ROI is 72%, and it was solidly positive all three months. Cash games, by contrast, are much more swingy. Although my cumulative ROI for cash games is 36%, I had negative ROIs in Months 1 and 3.

This result is the opposite of most people's conventional wisdom, which is that tournament results are much more variable than those from cash games. I think my stats reflect two things: I've been running average in tournaments and like CRAP (for the most part) in ring games. Also, I've been playing tournaments seriously much longer than I've been playing cash games, and I'm probably still a better tournament player than a cash player.

I expect these two sets of numbers to even out as the year progresses; it will be interesting to see how that goes. To be fair, these are ~ statistically speaking ~ very, even ridiculously, small sample sizes to draw any conclusions from.

As for online, I cashed in a large multi-table big buy-in tournament for the absolute minimum today... but hey, I made it to the money! I am hoping and praying that this is indication of an online results turnaround. What it wasn't, though, was an example of good bankroll management, as the buy-in was not in my price range. It worked out, but it was an excessively risky proposition. (The play was, however, considerably less donkeyesque than at lower buy-ins, and that was refreshing. I am reminded that game selection is key, and that I seem to do better at higher stakes for a variety of reasons.)

I am still waiting on the acquisition of poker tracking software (HINT HINT Poker Academy Prospector beta testing team!) that will allow me to review my online results in a coherent way.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 97: Two Days of Grinding AC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 95: Back in Black

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labels: , ,

Monday, November 10, 2008

Day 83: The Road Back

Sorry for the radio silence. I'm working on several new posts, and I've been grinding away extremely industriously at the game, with the goal of restoring my bankroll to its former state of healthy growth.

I'm pleased to report that I'm making progress in that effort. I've been prospering in tournaments and cash games at a decent rate. Last Friday, I cashed in my WSOP subscription series tournament. Tonight I took first of seventeen in my A League's big-buy-in game. I've made a bit playing cash as well.

It's amazing how well I can do when my luck doesn't totally suck.

I still have some more catching up to do, but it's nice to feel that I'm on my way. I have been being a tad fanatical about the effort, though, and I think I'd be wise to ease up and remember that I have other tasks to accomplish as well (such as writing here for you fine folks, my readers).

Combined online and live bankroll: 107%

Labels: ,

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Day 74: Scorched Earth and Other Signs of Destruction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You know, one or the other.

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

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

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

Time to mix it up, says I to myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How, you ask?

Turn: King of hearts.

River: King of spades.

Perfect, perfect for the chop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labels: , , , ,