Raise or Fold:  Learning (From) Poker

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

Thursday, March 25, 2010

That Woozy Feeling

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

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

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Which one is me?

Poker-playing monkeys
My friend JK sent me this photo this afternoon. It pretty much sums up the way I feel about my game at the moment. I haven't posted much lately because all I've been doing is losing and not having a whole lot of fun. (The good news is that the rest of my life is getting more and more interesting.)

I'll be heading to Atlantic City on December 5th, and plan to play in at least one Circuit Event.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Day 365: Not Finished Yet

Okay, so this is a little embarrassing.

You start a blog out with A Grand Plan. You state it in public. You do a pretty good job of keeping people informed on your progress.

And then, at the very end, you change the plan.

Boooooo. I call shenanigans! On myself.

Life, and the experience life brings (or leaves in its wake), has a way of interfering with the best laid plans. To wit:
  • My book is not done. Not even close. In fact, the extensive outline that I've been working from has come to seem less and less like the book I want to write. Accordingly, I'm having to reconsider it from the ground up. I fully intend to keep writing, and I definitely think I have a good book to bring forth, but it's not going to be the one I initially thought it would be.

  • I have distinctly NOT succeeded in leading as well-balanced life as I'd intended.

  • My poker results are inconclusive. While I have made a decent profit in the past year, I don't have enough information to make a decision about whether I can survive as a professional. I'm inclined to think I can, but I don't know for sure, and I've determined that I'm unlikely to know for sure in a reasonable timeframe.
So, what to do? what to do?

I'm flying to Las Vegas tonight. I'll be there for 3.5 weeks. I have arbitrarily decided that I will let this short period of time serve as the tie-breaker in my decision-making process. If I make a decent, livable income at the tables on this trip, I'll keep going. If I don't, I'll start looking for a job. You know, actual salaried, every-other-week-a-paycheck, health-benefit-conferring employment.

You say there's a recession on? No kidding. Thank god I live in Washington, DC, where employment opportunities are less awful than in most of the rest of the country. (And nothing stops me from continuing to play poker on the side while I diligently look for work.)

No matter what the outcome of this last lagniappe, this baker's dozenth month of poker, I will never EVER regret having given the past year to my experiment. It has been challenging, fun, heart-breaking, educational, rewarding, and deeply, deeply interesting. I have made wonderful new friends, achieved personal bests, and come to treasure my city and my friends all the more. It has been a spectacular adventure.

I was sitting at Starbucks the other day, having a coffee and catching up on my spreadsheet, as is my wont. The man at the table next to mine leaned over and made a comment about the svelteness of my MacBook Air. We had a brief conversation, during which he asked me: "Are you a lawyer?" I laughed. And then the following sentence emerged unprompted from my mouth for the first time: "Actually, I play poker for a living." And as I said it, it seemed true.

We shall see.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

August Trip to AC

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

AC Warm-Up

I can't participate in my usual bus junket to AC this month because it's scheduled right before I head to Las Vegas, and that's just too much of a muchness. (How, for example, would I properly perform the Last Minute Laundry Ritual?)

So instead, I'm heading up this weekend, for a three night stay starting Saturday. I'm not particularly thrilled at the prospect of driving with all the summer traffic, but I also wanted to catch at least some of the Saturday night action. I'll be interested to see how busy things are the rest of my stay; I'm assuming it won't be super-juicy, but I would think it'll be livelier than the equivalent days of the week in winter.

I may branch out a bit and play somewhere other than Harrah's at least part of the time, if only for variety's sake. It's comfortable to hang out where everybody (well, regulars and staff, anyway) knows your name… but it might be interesting to go where I'm less of a known quantity for a change.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Like A Bad Penny…

I keep coming back!

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

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

We shall see.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Almost Gone

The Last Minute Laundry Ritual is complete. My little shoulder bag is packed. I even went out and bought the new iPhone so I can video blog if I want (although I have to say I am mightily disappointed by what appears to be WORSE image quality than my original phone). I'm traveling light this time… no computer.

I am ready for Atlantic City. I set out in a positive frame of mind, filled with curiosity about how I'll perceive the competition after my time in Las Vegas. I plan to mostly play 2/5, and maybe one tournament on Sunday.

Expect updates mostly via Twitter.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Up the Coast

I've decided to forego my A League's End of Quarter freeroll tournament on Saturday. I have a very short stack of chips to work with (having qualified by winning a game, and then being out of action for the entire month of June), and the prize pool is relatively small this quarter.

Instead, I'll be heading out on another junket to AC for a couple of nights. Time to revisit the 2/5 game at Harrah's, and maybe even slip over to the Borgata for a few hours to see how it feels playing there. If things go well, the profit potential is considerably higher than I'd likely manage at the EOQ. Since the trip costs me nothing but 9 hours of bus-butt and another couple of nights away from home, it seems like an easy choice. And I can always hope that my orphan stack will manage to survive the blinds and squeak into the money.

Are the good results I've experienced in the last 10 days just variance swinging back (temporarily) in my direction, or have I really learned something as well?

There's only one way to find out.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

So Soon?

I leave Las Vegas in just about 48 hours.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Nothing Is Ever Simple

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

The agent was late in meeting me.

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

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

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

Because right now? Not so happy.

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

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

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

All My Bags Are Packed…

I'm ready to go. I'm leaving on a jet plane!

I'm so ridiculously hyped up it's a wonder that the walls and ceiling don't have Cardgrrl-shaped dents in them. Somehow I've got to set aside the novelty and excitement enough to take proper care of myself for the next month: eat well, sleep enough, exercise regularly. I am trying to be a sensible adult about this, really I am.

O boy o boy o boy o boy o boy o boy o boy o boy o boy o boy o boy o boy o boy o boy o boy!!!! WSOP here I come!!!

(Yeah, I'm calm and collected, for sure.)

The next post will probably be from my WSOP pad.

(You have no idea how awesomely cool it is for me to be able to type the words "my WSOP pad!")

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Soon and Very Soon

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

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

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

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

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Off to the Air-Conditioned Venue

Yes indeed, tomorrow I head out on another bus junket to Atlantic City. I have ~ as is customary ~ completed the Last-Minute-Laundry Ritual, and have a full array of clean clothes to choose from. Now I will be attempting to go to bed at a sane enough hour to actually get some sleep before the bus's departure at the ungodly hour of 9am.

9AM, I ask you! Don't these people understand that we are gamblers?!? Well, to be honest, most of them are significantly further into the geriatric demo than moi, and they probably go to bed and get up with the sun. Maybe when I am ancient I'll do the same. (I doubt it.)

I was supposed to be heading to Guadalajara, Mexico, this weekend for a family shindig. That trip got cancelled for obvious reasons of health paranoia. I guess I just have to go to AC and get "casino crud" instead. What a shame.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Three quite expensive tournament blanks.

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

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

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

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

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Pre-Travel Travails

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

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


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

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

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

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

The rant:

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

The complaint:

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

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

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

"Good hand???"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On the Road Again

I'm heading to Atlantic City again this Saturday for couple of days. This is a bus junket, so happily I won't have to negotiate traffic or drive while tired. All the more opportunity to concentrate on playing teh pokerz.

I've also booked my trip to Las Vegas in April; I arrive one day before the Tax Man and leave a week later. Key goals for the trip include stunning the tournament world with my brilliance in the Deepstack Extravaganza at the Venetian and lining up a place to stay for the month of June. (Gosh, I wonder which one will be easier to accomplish.)

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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.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Q and A: A Poker Player Getting Comped? What's Up With That?

Faithful reader phrankguy1 asks:
I'd be interested to know how a poker player gets completely comped rooms at AC casinos (Harrahs again?) on weekends. Do you play table games, etc?
I get this question a lot.

Once in a blue moon I'll run $20 through a slot machine. Or I'll sit at a $5 table game with $50.

But, honestly, it's a rare thing. I do it because someone told me that I'd never, ever get comped a room if I didn't.

I'm not so sure, though. I am currently a Platinum member at Harrah's and wouldn't be surprised to make Diamond level on poker play alone this year. When I go to a casino, I play A LOT of poker. I mean, ridiculous numbers of hours. On a four night trip I can easily rack up 70 hours of play. I think the stakes you play at matter too. On the other hand, on my last trip to Vegas I only played about 16 hours at Harrah's properties and they still comped my whole five-day stay. Go figure.

Most of room comps come from corporate headquarters, or through my casino connection folks. Once or twice, however, the poker room has arranged for me to extend my stay, gratis.

It has occurred to me to wonder, too, whether they are more generous to female players than male. I don't know why that would be the case, but I suppose it's possible.

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More Travel Ahead

I'm making two trips to AC this month. The first, this coming weekend, is primarily aimed at participation in the WSOP Circuit Event at Caesars on Sunday. I'll be driving myself there and back for that one. The other is just the standard bus junket on the weekend of the 21st. In both cases, my hotel is completely comped.

I'm also planning another trip to Las Vegas in April for a Round 2 stab at the Venetian's Deepstack Extravaganza. Some people might call me a glutton for punishment, but I refuse to believe that I'll run really, really bad two trips in a row. (Of course I might, but I'll burn that bridge when I come to it.) From a cursory exploration, it looks as if I ought to be able to secure a very reasonable airfare; I need to work with my casino folks to see what they can do for me in terms of lodging. My timing on that one is flexible, although I'd prefer it include a weekend.

In May, I'll be making a family-related trip to Guadalajara, Mexico. I don't suppose they have poker in Guadalajara (which is probably just as well). I think that may be enough long-distance travel for the month. We'll see how I feel about AC when the time comes.

And, of course, the current plan is to spend the month of June in Las Vegas.

When I write it all out like that, it sounds like quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing. I wish I had more options closer to home.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Back at Headquarters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

One Problem at a Time

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

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

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

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

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Another Good News/Bad News Scenario

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

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

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Chips, ahoy!

Yeah, off to AC again next Monday. Not the ideal time, but I don't have a whole lot of wiggle room with jury duty coming up.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day 124: A Day Off, Mostly

So yesterday I wound up playing a microstakes live game all night long. It was great fun, and I made more than 6x my money in profit, so I guess I file that under "time well spent" despite the addition of yet another all-nighter to my log.

All I can say is, I hope that my recent live game results continue in the same vein. I am prepared to imagine that I'm just running really good. Of course, the mind plays tricks on itself and would prefer to believe that I've rounded some kind of major intellectual/intuitive corner and I'm now a poker genius (at least compared to my current competition). This does seem, however, inherently unlikely.

I'd be more persuaded of my godessy goodness if I weren't doing just HORRIBLY online. I couldn't qualify in the WBCOOP. I can't book a profit in a sit'n'go, in a ring game, or even anything more than the most pathetic cash in my ulitmate game, Razz. You know things are effed up when I can't win at Razz! I mean, COME ON.

My current plan is to just pretend that all online poker is as rigged as this looks.

I am currently doing my traditional Last Minute Laundry in preparation for my return to AC tomorrow. I was supposed to go play a couple of tourneys in my A League this evening in Manassas, but I just couldn't face all that driving on the pathetically small amount of sleep I got, nor could I feature packing without a proper selection of clean clothes from which to choose.

I think I've mentioned before that, ironically, I dress for the poker table much more fastidiously than for any other regularly scheduled activity. For some reason, I find it helpful to put on the armor of nice clothing and even ~ gasp ~ make-up (war paint?). Only those who've known me for a long time will appreciate how genuinely bizarre (for me) this impulse is. Yet I do it, and ~ surprisingly ~ I do it with some genuine pleasure. I honestly can't account for it. I suppose, in part, it makes me feel more professional. Whatever. But it does mean that packing is a little more involved an enterprise than it used to be.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Once more unto the breach...

...dear friends!

Looks like I'm heading back to AC sooner than expected. I'll be traveling with previously mentioned poker-playing friend and worthy heads-up opponent JK and his visiting buddy.

I'll be curious to see what kind of action there is in the poker room on a Sunday and Monday night before Christmas. I don't have particularly high hopes, I must say, but there weren't a lot of comp rooms available otherwise, so I took what I could get. The company should make up for any shortfall in poker profit.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 119: Wiped

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

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

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

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


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

Friday: berry berry good, as previously discussed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Trippus Interruptus

Well, this is not going as planned.

I overslept after a bad night with a nasty new headcold. Then I had to run to the pharmacy to get much needed medications before the bus trip. That took longer than I thought.

It was pouring with rain. I was not able to get a taxi in a timely fashion, and I got soaking wet. Perfect for a person with a cold.

I was looking at the 4pm bus, and not getting to AC until 9 at night. I decided to give it up and stay home tonight, get a good night's rest, and try again tomorrow.

Feh. Hope I feel better, because I sure feel lousy tonight.


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!]

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 94: Once More Unto the Breach

I'm heading to AC this weekend. I would claim to be entirely unafraid, but that would be only 98.5% true.

The fact is, I've almost recouped my losses from the last trip. I have done well in tournaments, and made a substantial comeback in cash games too. I am no longer wincing with anxiety as I bet out my strong but potentially vulnerable hands. I am ready to take on Demon Variance once again.

So, with another fully comped trip on offer, I'm getting back on the horse again. Say it with me: Ride 'em, Cardgrrl!!

[I'm taking my laptop along, and plan to write and intend to post at least once while I'm on the road. I'm determined to restore my schedule of daily blogging, as I firmly believe that writing is actually one of those things that contributes to my general well-being. Which is rather odd, given my history with writing in the era before blogging ~ but that's a story for another time.]

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Day 56: Back from Vegas

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

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

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

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

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

Some quick notes from my trip:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current live and online bankroll: 109%

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