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The Scared Kitten

I have not played poker since Vegas. In fact, for the first two days after the trip, whenever I thought about poker, I felt sick. I was supposed to play in a $20 NL Holdem online poker tournament last night, a WPBT even (World Poker Bloggers Tour), but I couldn't bring myself to put $50 into Party Poker. I'm a scared kitten. Prior to Vegas, I was on a $500 run. I was playing great poker and was looking forward to hitting at least $1200 for the year (a then-modest goal). But now, post-Vegas, I'm up only $40 or so. I'm licking my wounds and cowering in the corner.

Ironically, my absence from poker may be good for me. I don't want to return to poker while a scared kitten. It could only lead to disaster at the tables. I feel that confidence is a great pre-requisite to high-quality poker playing. You must have the confidence to bet a strong hand without fear of the nuts (in moderation, of course). You must have the confidence to call a bet that is probably a bluff, but could have you beat. Now, you don't want to do this all of the time. Sometimes you are beat. But the confidence is an important element when making that decision. If you are unconfident you may fold the better hand, and players will keep picking at you until you're folding everything.

That said, I was hoping to get a game together at my place on Friday night. The infinite wisdom of the poker gods fouled my attempt. Many of my poker regulars are unavailable. This, conveniently, buys me more time to lick my wound. I am definitely playing on Monday at Desi's place. Its a wild loose game, but I've done well there, winning at least 5 times and losing at most twice (the first time being a long while ago). So, there it is. The kitten will hopefully grow to a full tiger between then and now. I'll try to coddle him. Bring him up on some Golden Palace until he is as strong as possible. But either way, I'm playing on Monday. That mix of fear and excitement is a mighty fine cocktail. Damn, I love me some poker.

posted by Jordan @ 2:18 PM, ,

Suck Outs and Bluffing in Vegas

I am currently in Vegas, my personal Mecca, enjoying everything gambling-oriented. I've only had one opportunity to play poker (1/2 NL) at the Excalibur Thursday night, but it was a great time. I have never been to Vegas before, and the difference between it and Atlantic City (my usual casino fix) is like apples to apple farms. Everything is bigger and better here. The Excalibur poker room had a free buffet (its the little things). And in general, its just excitement everywhere.

Kim (my fiance) and I decided to come to Vegas for two very different reasons. One of her friends from college, Heather, (we all went to UB together) moved here with her boyfriend, Craig. Another friend, Brian, was here on work for the week. So, for Kim it was a college reunion of sorts. A third friend, Denise, joined as well.

But for me it was all about one thing: Poker. Or just gambling, frankly. I've already played poker, blackjack, roulette, carribean stud, and craps.

So, I started at Excalibur with 100. I eventually had to dip into my pocket for another 50 when I was down to 20 left. I wasn't playing my best poker, trying to hit flushes that were not coming. But eventually, as the night wore on I hit my stride. I was down to my last 30 chips or so (down 120), but then made a comeback until I was up about 50 or so. Maybe even more. I made a sweet bluff at one point, but just before the end of my play (our girls came to get us), I had a terrible suck out that left me down 50 for the night. Stupid suck outs. Here are the two hands that I just mentioned.

The Bluff
I was holding K9, suited diamonds. I was on a rush, and decided to press it a bit. The flop came down JT4, with two diamonds. I had a K-high flush draw. A bettor before me raised 10. I called. The next card was a 9. The bettor raised either 15 or 20. I called, knowing that if I hit the flush, I could win big. The last card was a T. The bettor checked. And then I moved all in. He only had 40-50 left. Plus, I had not gone all in yet so far, while playing for several hours. He thought for a moment. And then he folded. I was trying to represent a set of tens. But he asked me if I hit the straight (I didn't even realize the straight was possible until he said it). I had to show some bravado. I showed my cards. The table was shocked. I got some compliments. It felt good to effectively bluff. Kudos to me.

The Suckout
I held KQ in the BB. There were only 5 or 6 at the table (which is rare for Vegas, but usual for me). The table went around with a couple of callers. I raised it up a small amount. A couple of people called. The flop was K87. I raised 15$. Most folded, except for one player, who raised $15 on top. I saw he had about $45 left, so I pushed him all in. He hesitated and then called. He had pocket tens. I was in good shape. But then a 9 came. And then a 6. The guy hit runner-runner straight, and I was suddenly down $50. Sucks. But I kept my mood up. That is the game. If you can't take it you shouldn't play.

, there it is. My first Las Vegas poker game. It was great. When I started writing this blog entry, it was right after the Excalibur game. I saved the draft and continued it today (3/29), a day after returning. In a nutshell, after that suckout, everything went haywire. I was doing well in a Luxor tourney, until I overplayed KQ three times, to lose all of my chips. The blinds were ridiculously high, so I thought I was playing smart. It just never paid off.

I then played a cash game at Luxor, 1/2 NL. In one of the first hands, I had pocket tens. I raised to 7. One person called. Another guy raised all-in for another 47$. I folded, thinking that (a) he probably had Js or better, OR if he had AJ, AQ, AK, or even JQ, JK, or QK, it would be a coin toss, which was not worth my money. I folded. My earlier caller called. The caller had pocket 8s. The raiser had 5s. I was steamed. And then the flop came...2 more tens. I would've hit a 4 of a kind. What a joke! If I had been at that table earlier, I would have seen that the raiser was a joke. I would have called. But I could only use the info available to me at the time. And if I called and he had KK, I would have hated myself even more. I proceeded to lose about $100 there.

On the final day, I woke up early to play poker. What a mistake. I lost an additional $260. Nothing was happening. I got sucked out on a A5 against 54, when I moved all in pre-flop and the 54 called. They hit the straight. I pushed pocket 5s when the flop was 336, and at the end of the hand was shown 34, thus losing more. It was ridiculous. I went upstairs to Kim with my tail between my legs. Losing is hard. Overall, I lost 468$ on poker, won about $260 or more in craps and roulette.

So, for Vegas, my losses were about $200, not bad for 5 days entertainment, in which I played at least 4-6 hrs per day. However, I keep my poker winnings seperate from general gambling winnings. So I lost most of my winnings for 2005. I dropped from $505, to $37 or so. Its a blow to the ego. But that's poker. I should have played more selective hands. I should have been more patient. I should have better luck in the future. But I won't let it effect me too much. I've been mourning my loss for 2 days. I'm getting over it. And the next time I play at a home game, I'm going in fresh and ready. I got a lot of ground to make up, but I'll do it, one hand at a time. Oh yeah, and Vegas sucks! (I'm still allowed a little bitter resentment.)

posted by Jordan @ 3:58 PM, ,

You Decide #2

Here is a hand that I played months ago. It stuck with me (you'll see why shortly).

I was in Atlantic City, in the Trump Plaza poker room. It was my first time there (I have yet to return). I was sitting at a $1/2 No Limit Holdem Table with 9 players total. I sat down with about $120. I was two seats to the left of the big blind. The first hand I was dealt was AA. I was ecstatic. What a way to start!

The man on my right checked. I raised the pot to $7. There were about three callers followed by the button (Sloppy Joe, cause the guy was a fat, sloppy looking feller), who raised it to $20. I reraised another $20 on top. All the callers folded, and Sloppy Joe called. The flop was ideal: 38T, no flush draw. I bet $20, right off the bat. Sloppy Joe pushed his stack all in, another $26 on top. I called. He had pocket tens. I lost to the set of tens.

I should probably keep my opinion about the hand to myself, but I'm too conceited for that. I do think I made one error. I should have realized that Sloppy Joe only had so much chips in the first place. If he was willing to be $20, I should have pushed him hard, and went all in myself, pre-flop. I was definitely the favorite at that point, so I couldn't be faulted for making that move if he called. However, I could have won a decent sized pot (the $7 calls, and $20 reraise) if he folded. Instead, I had my Aces cracked.

Now, the other side of it is that my fundamentals were there. I raised to get people out of the hand, so I didn't have a bunch of drawing hands out there. I called the $26 because the pot odds were good. I just wish I had seen what was coming.

In the end, I won $150 at that table. I got extremely lucky when I played Q2 suited hearts and got a flush draw and top pair. One cocky player and I were betting back and forth at each other. I had a tough decision when the turn did not help me. But in the end, I called a bet that put me all-in, about $60+ dollars, which is a lot in my stakes. He had pocket Ks, but I cracked them with an Ah on the river. This was a hand that I don't think I necessarily played well. But I figured he had the Ks (pat on the back for that), and I knew I would win with a heart, 2, or Q. That provided me with 13 outs, which was not great, but worth a shot, since I had top pair.

Alright folks, I'm off to Vegas tomorrow, for my first time. Wish me luck. I'll try to post some while I am there. If that doesn't happen, I'll post a summary when I get back. Happy Poker.

posted by Jordan @ 5:41 PM, ,

Justify My Love

I live in a sitcom environment. I have a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment in the Financial District of Manhattan. I'm here with my fiance', Kim, my brother, Keith, and his girlfriend, Jen. Its a regular odd couples, but we make do. The rent is cheaper because of the split, and we all get along well enough.
I only mention this to set up the poker game I played yesterday. Keith's friends from out of town came in. Big shout out to Wowack, who brought Keith a chinese star from Thailand. Keith and I, as young teenagers, had a couple of contraband stars we hid from my ma. We'd go into the backyard and wreak hell on our wooden fence.
But I digress. Wowack was in the mood for some poker, and I am always down. So Wowak, Keith, Tim (another friend of Keith's) and I played a quick $10 tournament. I had been talking about poker and playing online seemingly nonstop for the entire weekend, so I knew that if I was not to be shamed, I'd have to have a decent showing.
The game was an odd one. Generally, no one raised pre-flop, and one guy even said that it was rude and he hated when people did it. That didn't stop me entirely, but, out of politeness and in the name of friendliness, I did limit my pre-flop raises. Note that these guys were not experienced players. Wowack had some experience, and I think Tim may have played a couple of times, but Keith, my very own bro, was a poker virgin.
With all of this, it was a hard table to get a grasp on. In one hand, with blinds of 1/2 and 100 chips per player to start, I had pocket TT. Tim, on the button, limped in. Keith, small blind, called. I raised to 7 total (5 more). Tim and Keith called. The flop was AQJ, with two hearts (my tens were both black). It was the worst flop I could see. Keith and I checked, and Tim raised. I had to put him on a J, Q, or A. Nothing else would have made sense. Keith called, and I folded. When I returned from the bathroom, I discovered what both players had. Tim had pocket 99, and Keith had pocket 22. I had them whooped. It just goes to show you that playing with novices does not necessarily make an easy game.
As it turned out, I won the game and $30, which increases my 2005 winnings to $505. Not bad, for me and my low stakes action. I'm hoping to hit $1200 by year end. Its a modest goal, but I'm a modest guy. Hopefully Vegas (leaving on Wed.) will be good for me. It'll be my first time. I'm psyched.
Now, for one last hand. The last hand of the 4-way tournament was between Wowack and me. I was the big stack, and he was blinding himself to death waiting for the nuts. He had about 70 left, I had 330. Blinds were 10/20. I'm on the button, and look down to see AKo. I did not raise pre-flop, as I normally would, because I knew he would fold, and I wanted to break him. The flop came down J99. He checked, and I checked. The next card was a Q. He bet about 20. I called, slightly leery, but assuming he was trying to bluff at a pot. The river was an A. He bet 30 or so, with another 20 chips left in his stack. I put him all in. He called. Wowack had J8, and I took the pot with my rivered A. Wowack's error, if you missed it, was the check on the flop. He was shortstacked and could have used the blinds. He also had the best hand at that point, and should have bet for value. So if I folded, he would have protected his hand, and if I called, he would still be the favorite, and could have maybe pushed me out on the turn before the A hit. But that is the difference between a novice and more serious players. So, in reference to my earlier statement about novices not being easy, as Snoop Dogg might say, "Novices ain't easy, but yo, they ain't hard no." You just have to adjust your play, and know your player.

posted by Jordan @ 12:42 PM, ,

You Decide #1

I am going to start a series of "You Decide" blog entries that will lay out a hand that I encountered. If you'd like, please post a comment telling me your opinion on whether I played the hand well or not.

So, without further adieu, Questionable Hand #1:

I was in the big blind in a $1 tournament, short stacked. UTG (under the gun, the person to the left of the big blind) and UTG+1 (the person to his left), limped in. The button doubles the blind. I, with KsJx (King of spades, Jack of an unknown suit), called. UTG and UTG+1 call. The flop comes with 3 spades, with the highest card an 8. UTG+1 raises 500 (about half the pot). Me and UTG call. The next card is an off suit, unimportant card. I pushed all in, for about 600. UTG called with pair of 8s (one in his hand, the other on the board). What happened? Last card is a K. My Ks beat his 8s. Was it a good call from me on the flop? Was it a good all in for me on the turn? You tell me.

My analysis, which is definitely biased, is that my play was decent. On the flop, I had a potential K high flush. My only fear was a As out there. I also had two overcards, which if paired could beat the board. Someone else, however, may say that I was reckless and got lucky. So, if you have an opinion, post it. Next time I come across another questionable hand I'll post it up.

Happy poker everyone.

posted by Jordan @ 1:14 PM, ,

St. Patty's Day

Not much in the way of poker yesterday. I played a couple of dirt-cheap $1 single-table tournaments (STTs, aka SNGs, aka sit n' go's). The stakes are low, but it allows me to play a little without having to worry about all the interruptions and distractions around me. As I've stated in earlier posts, I'm leery of online poker, because it seems to be a black hole into which I pour my money. So, I play low stakes to keep the siphoning of funds to a negligible level.
I got into a 1$ STT (single table tournament, aka, sit n' go), and lost on the bubble (4th place). It was a turbo game, so blinds were increasing at a ridiculous pace. I got lucky on a couple of occasions, but otherwise the only exciting thing happening was my three-way trash talk with some players. For me, talking smack just makes the game more interesting. I have a strategy. I try to anger players, with the hope that they will come at me hard and slip up. Put them on tilt, if I can. Sometimes, I try to distract them. I'll start mean, and then I'll apologize. Tell them that they misunderstood what I was saying, or that I was just joking and they should not be so sensitive. Again, I am hoping that the distraction will effect their game and put them on tilt. There is one major drawback. Sometimes, I get so into the smack talk that I don't pay as much attention to the action at the table. This can hurt me, so in the future, I've got to watch that.
Ok, so talking smack is rude and childish. I agree wholeheartedly. But I am online, and I don't have to be kind or mature as per the other players. If I was at a casino, it would be different. But I am not, so let the smack talking commence.
Hopefully, I can get some games in tonight. If so, I am going to do my best to concentrate and take notes so I can discuss some hands on here. But realistically, it is Saint Patrick's Day, so I don't know if Ole Man Guinness will allow me much mental capacity. Happy St. Pat's everyone.

posted by Jordan @ 5:03 PM, ,

Cock the Hammer, Fumble the Bullets

Hi all. Last night I played at Chris's home game. The game was some of the most frustrating loose action I have ever experienced. There were eight people at its most full; .25/.50 blinds. $20 buy-in. I know a lot of the action was because of the small blinds. Some of the players literally limped in every hand. A six-way pot was not uncommon last night.
It started off well for me. At one point, I was up approximately $35, maybe more. I whooped ass with subtle plays, and minimal bluffs (this was afterall, a loose game). I'd like to highlight a couple of hands in particular, which really stuck with me.
Early in the evening, when there were only 4 players, I was getting blinded to death. With about $9 left, and 6 people at the table, I raised to $3 on the button, with 72o (aka, the hammer). I know. I'm sorry. But I thought that the players saw my relatively tight table image, and I wanted to change up my play. Two callers, at least. I think 3. The flop was K87 rainbow. Check, check, check, and I raise all in for approx. $6.50. Hey, I had low pair, which alone is miserable, but I also was the initial aggressor and wanted to represent an overpair (AA) or Ks. Plus, I sensed weakness all around. Well, it worked. And I showed my hammer. I am still proud of myself on that play. Side note: I was later told by the player on my left, Rouss (pronounced Roose), that he had an 8. So, a successful bluff took out the better hand. Why did it work? I'd say a lot of luck. That, and I had a good strategy on the hand. I knew I was last to act on the button. I had decided pre-flop that I was cool with going all in. And at a loose table, I may have even been called by an AQ, or an under pair. Especially, with my seemingly obvious position raise. You've got to keep one step ahead.
Now, the hammer was successful for me, but the bullets, nope. I have to give a big F you to Chris, who was dealing the cards while I returned from a quick jaunt into the kitchen. When I got back to the table, I saw an As face up at my position. He flubbed the deal. But, since everyone saw what a great card he flubbed, they all decided to deal it out just to see what I would have had. AA both black. Damn that Chris. Damn him to hell.
I got the bullets one more time. I was in the big blind, and at least 6 of 7 people had limped in (remember how loose of a game it was). Now, I was faced with a decision. On a prior occassion at this game, I raised a shit load pre-flop and got one serious mark to call and then fold post-flop. With this many people limping in, I thought maybe I'd get one or two callers. So I raise it to $5. Everyone folded like an oragami convention. I guess, in the end, it was a good hand. I picked up about $3, and I avoided going into a flop with so many players. Someone could have easily hit two pair, a set, or worse. But it still stung. I guess I have to remember the words of Doyle Brunson (paraphrased of course): with bullets, you either win small or lose big. I guess I won small.
Okay, now here is a hand that is the very incarnation of my poker weakness. I was in the big blind with 84os. At least 6 people limp in, myself included. The flop came down 567, with two clubs. What's a man to do. The small blind checks, I check (knowing that someone in this loose table will bet), Ruff (a solid player) raises 1$, some folds, and the button goes all in for $6.25. I was up about $20-40 at the begining of this hand. I saw the flush draw, so I decided to isolate. I moved all in. Rewind a bit. As soon as I saw the flop, I felt danger. Someone was going to have the 89, completing the nut straight. And that someone was going to be Ruff. My hunch was right. Ruff called my all in (which put him all in for about 25$, on top of the 6.25$). The button has 34, for the low straight. I had 84 for the medium straight. And Ruff, like clockwork, had the 89 suited clubs. Ruff took the hand. I suck. If I need to learn anything, I need to learn how to lay down strong hands. Ruff later told me that he would've gone all in over the top if I merely called the button's all in. I would have been put on a hard decision, and ultimately probably have called. Its a hard thing, folding a solid, made hand. But it will save me money in the long run. Live and learn. Nice hand, Ruff.
To finish this post, I want to discuss my (and the) final hand of the night. I had about $7 left, and was looking at A3os (off suit, which means of two different suits if you are a non-poker player) in the big blind. Now, this was the loose table, and I was ready to call it a day. Do I stick around for another 10 min or so (when the game was scheduled to end), with shitty cards, losing blinds, and then cash out with whatever measly chips I had left. Nah, with the first to act, a tight player, raising it to $1 total, and the big stack calling after him, I went all in. The tight player, Chris, folded (Q9 suited), and the big stack called. He had KJos. The flop was A3x with two spades. I was elated. The turn and river were spades too. The KJ beat me with the nut flush. His K was a spade. Damn it. I could have sat there upset at the hand, but I got up and left (upset at the hand). I was happy the night of ridiculous poker was over. I lost $20, but no pride. And $20, is a mere dent in my winnings for 2005.

On a side note, after my last hand, a couple of players were telling the big stack that he was nuts to call my all in with KJ. Number 1, if someone is a bad poker player and he is not your friend, don't insult his play. He may learn something and play better. This happened earlier in the night, when the big mark of the game called a $15 all in with nada because he had so much money in already. Stupid for him. Great for me (not for that hand, but down the road). So will everyone stop encouraging my competition to get better. Number 2, I think it was a smart play on his part. He was up near $100, and $6.50 or whatever, was not a huge dent for him. He could have been facing an underpair, or an AQ. Either way he was not entirely screwed. So, for all you who insulted the big stack's play, I was the one that was consequently screwed, and I'm not crying. So shut the F up! I spent the subway ride with the big stack complimenting the play. Because next time, I'll have KK, and he'll be screwed. Ka Ching!

posted by Jordan @ 8:39 AM, ,

Battered Poker Player Syndrome

Online Poker and I have an abusive relationship. Plain and simple. I go to OP looking for some poker love. She invariably smacks me around, takes my money and then calls me names. Of course, OP is smart enough not to hit me in the face. People might notice. Instead, OP hits me in the pride, where it hurts the most. Ok, let me focus my thoughts for a minute.
When I first started playing online, I played for free. But this wasn't good enough. Free poker was not real poker. People would play aweful hands or go all in because there were no consequeces. So, I got up the nerve to invest $20/month at Golden Palace Poker, one of the few sites I've found with such low deposit minimums and cheap games. I limited myself to $20/mo, because I was a student with no real income. Now, as a working attorney and a poker player in the black, I put in $20 as needed. Over the last couple of years, one thing has remained constant. I lose my $20s. So, why do I play online? Because the bitch keeps toying with me. Just when I think that OP has no love for me and is just using me for my dough, she has to do something nice, like pay out in a tournament.
I have had three significant wins online. The first was over a year ago. I placed in first out of 173 people in a freeroll tournament (i.e., free to enter). For all you newbies, to play a freeroll you have to use your "Action Points" which are kind of like a running comp on all the action you play for real money. Well, that tournament, which took hours to win, paid out a whopping $13.50. It was so meager, I barely wanted to tell people about my win. To win that tournament, I had to get lucky. My play was subpar and I must have outdrawn my adversaries when I was all in at least 7 times.
More recently, I've had two really significant online successes. In Jan. 2005, I came in 2nd out of 240 people to win $170 in a $1000 freeroll ($1000 is the prize pool). I won it by sheer skill, without outdraws at all. I lost to the 1st place player because, at that point, I was so deliriously happy I couldn't care which place I took. I learned from my lesson though.
About a month later, in Feb. 2005, I came in 1st in the same tournament, making $270. Once I got down to top 2, I decided I was not going to flake. I played fine poker that day.
Ever since that last win, OP has been miserable. Outdrawn, crappy cards, and poor concentration have been the boon of my online existence (I think I am using boon correctly). But, I won three tournaments, so OP and I are still hooking up.
Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment. Maybe I want to lose. Maybe. However, I will rationalize it another way. For a man desperate for some poker action, OP, the abusive, carefree poker slut, just can't be beat...even if she is a dominatrix.

Next time I type, hopefully I'll be discussing an actual poker game. I'm scheduled to play at my friend Chris's place tomorrow. .25/.50 No Limit Hold'em cash game. I think I've got the game cracked, so I'm crossing my fingers that the game happens. If it doesn't, I'll probably hang with OP. See, that bitch is always around.

posted by Jordan @ 12:05 PM, ,

Opening Day

Hi folks! If you're reading this...I'm quite amazed. Because as of right now, I am merely starting this Poker Blog. The reason? Well, because I was at work reading someone else's poker blog (the Intrepid Card Player & the Tao of Poker) and thought to myself, 'I can do that.' It seems like a good way to keep a running journal of my poker. Maybe I'll learn something from my ruminations. Maybe I'll learn something from some reader feedback...if anyone ever reads this.
For the folks who have stumbled upon this blog and don't know who I am, I'll give a brief rundown. My name is Jordan. I'm new to the world of blogs, so excuse me if I sound like a douche bag. I'm a NY lawyer, just starting out. During an interview while searching for my first job, I got rejected by a lawyer who said that I didn't show the passion for law. I thought I had the passion for law. I mean, I like law, I always wanted to go to law school, and I love Judge Judy. Over a year passed, during which I did get a job, but also found myself playing more and more poker. And then, about a week ago, I realized something. My passion is poker. So, this humble lawyer is hoping to one day go professional. It will be slow going, because my addictive personality is luckily kept in check by my anal retentiveness. So I don't see myself ever spending more money than I can comfortably lose on Poker. Until, that is, I can make the full transition. Until then, I'll keep playing whenever I can, learning through experience, books, and any way possible.
I'm going to keep this posting shorter than I planned. I started typing, but couldn't stop. So, this is all for now. In the next few blogs, I plan on posting stories on my past poker experiences. I hope you all enjoy...of course, "you all" right now is just me. But soon enough...

Your Highness of Poker

posted by Jordan @ 2:14 PM, ,