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Weekend Poker

I can't help but feel like I'm a good poker player. The results this year aren't bad. I'm up above $2k for the year so far in live poker alone. Add it online poker and its slightly different, but not different enough to matter. The thing is, I feel 100% confident that I can win every single time I sit for a live poker game, especially the cash games.

The trend continued with two more wins this weekend, the first at a law school friend's homegame and the second at NiceLook. For the homegame, I didn't really put much effort into note-taking for obvious reasons. Namely, I didn't want to look like a tool and I didn't want to out the blog. The homegame was a uncompetitive environment. There were just six of us and we met in a private social club in the city. The location was really not my cup of tea, and frankly, before this game, I didn't know such things existed.

The Club is a private home previously owned by a very famous person from the past (think 1800s). You probably won't even know him by name, but in the effort to keep semi-anonymous, I'll leave out any further details. It is a multi-story building, and we met in the downstairs Grill. I was first to arrive, with just the host, John, and his wife, Nina, waiting around. I made small talk, and tried to get comfortable in the environment. Even though the grill is probably the most informal part of the club, I was glad I swapped my usual superhero emblem apparel for a tasteful navy polo shirt and jeans.

Soon after, Chuck showed up with his girlfriend, Kelly, and a female co-worked of John's arrived. Her name was Daina or Diana or Danielle. I am HORRIBLE with names. The real problem is really one of confidence. Even after I hear a name or recall it, I'll second-guess myself. If your name is Kristin or Christian or Christina or something similar, I'll apologize to you right now. Even if I remember that you are "Kristin", I'll avoid using it, because I have no confidence in my recall. I used to think I had a terrible memory, but within the last month, someone set me right. I have terrible long-term memory, if anything, and a great working memory. Otherwise, I'd be horrible at poker.

The game was played in the grill on a long wooden table. No cash was exchanged until the end, and we all started with $20 in chips. We played an orbit of .25/.50 NLHE. I made the first raise of the night on the first hand with AJ and got one call. The flop was JT7, and I bet out. I was called by Chuck. The turn was a blank and I bet out, but Chuck pushed all-in. I had about $15 left, so I folded face-up. He showed T7, for flopped two pair.

I kept the game moving and I was my charming self. After the holdem round, we played a round of Stud hi/lo regular. There was no qualifier, and no declare, which made for an interesting game. The host usually played declare, but they had to open it up because all of the girls were newbies and fairly clueless.

There wasn't much else going on. It was a fun time and everyone was friendly. The game ended at about 10:30, which was fine to me. I wanted to go home and see wifey Kim. Also, lately I've been preferring short sessions, for whatever its worth. I cashed out $35 richer and headed home.

Sunday, wifey Kim had another conference, this time in Manhattan. I started my day with some laundry, and then lazily headed over to the club. When I arrived, there was a list, but after about 5 minutes, I was called to a 1/2 NL table. I saw some familiar faces, including a very sharp Asian guy, a very loose aggressive angry card-chucking Asian, and Carbon Monoxide. CM is a female player who is a silent killer at the table. There was also a sleepy Russian player with about 2500 in front of him who looked strikingly like mob boss John Abruzzi from Prison Break. To his left and right were players with 1000 and 1500. Looking around, it was clear this was a deepstacked table, so I tried to keep quiet. I was down about $50 when there was commotion over an empty seat. A new player sat and was playing his first hand, while another player complained that he asked to be moved to the table, and that was his seat. I saw an opening, as I was having no fun in the 20 minutes I sat at the table. After I folded, I turned to the guy and said, "You are at the other 1/2 table?" "Yeah." "I'll switch with you." I racked up and he gladly accepted as he thanked me. Sucker! I was going to a table with much smaller stacks and clearly crappier players.

The new table was a wet dream. A gay guy named Fred was on my left and he wouldn't shut up. He was constantly joking around or making funny (ha ha funny, not queer funny) comments. It was somewhat annoying, but I decided to play along, preferring to make friends with the player to my left. He also started showing me his cards after I folded, so being friends had other advantages as well.

For about 10 or 15 minutes, I basically limped and folded. Finally, I was dealt 55, and channeled my inner Fuel. UTG, I limped, and a young Asian player in MP/LP raised to $20 total, a seemingly large bet if you didn't know such things were fairly common in the NYC underground 1/2 games. He got one caller from the button and I called as well, hoping to hit my set. The flop was AK5, with two clubs. This is a near perfect flop; it loses points for being suited. Regardless, I checked, knowing full well that a bet was coming from any Ace out there. The same Young Asian called. He is a bit of a beanstalk-looking kid with a bulbous head and round mouth. He really looks like an idiot, and my prior experience with him in the NYC clubs were in line with that theory. He bet $20 and the button called. I called. The turn was a Queen. I wasn't worried about JT considering the action, so I checked and expected another bet. He bet out $50 and the button folded. I considered my options. I had to re-raise here. A min-raise could possibly work, but I didn't have that much in front of me. I decided to push all-in for $161 more. It felt like an overbet for value, and I was hoping he was going to call with top pair. I stared him down like I was going to kill him. I wanted to look like I was bluffing and I thought the staredown was a good reverse-tell. As much as I think the kid is a tool, he's played enough, so I hoped he knew the basic strong-means-weak tell. He called and the river was a Queen. I tabled my full house and he showed AK. Just a standard cooler-hand on his part, but I'd like to think that I could've folded if I were him.

I made my only significant mistake of the day a few hands later. After some limpers, I raised to $15 with 88 on the button. The SB, Fred, and UTG called. The flop was all unders, 257. It checked to me and I bet $20. Fred called and UTG folded. The turn was a 4. Fred checked and I bet $20 again, hoping to just keep him passive in the hand. I wasn't 100% confident after his call and I didn't want to throw money at this pot. He raised me $50 on top, and I thought for a moment. I rationalized that he was probably making a play since I didn't increase my bet from the flop to the turn (usually a sign of weakness). I called. The river was a blank. He bet $75 and it seemed like a very high bet in reference to the table (and not the pot). Since it was so uncharacteristic, I called and he showed A3o, for a turned straight. I should've known better.

A little while later, I limped with KxQh UTG. There were about 4 limpers when the SB raises to $20. I decided to call, as did four or so other people. The flop was 983, all hearts. I had the third nut flush draw, but that wasn't saying much. The SB pushed all-in for his remaining $43. Considering the amount of money in the pot, I was considering my options. I thought of isolating, but decided against it, since I may be facing a flopped flush behind me. Instead, I feigned like I was contemplating a raise and decided just to call. I wanted to look strong to push everyone else out. I knew I had two overs to the board, and inside straight draw and a decent flush draw against one person, and I didn't peg the all-in player as having much. Everyone folded. The turn was a blank and the river was an offsuit Queen. We showed our cards and my KQo beat AxKh. In other words, I got lucky, but I am glad I put myself in a position to get lucky.

I made another foolish mistake by playing Q9s and getting into a trouble hand. I believe I limped or maybe called a small bet ($10 max, or maybe just a $5 straddle) and three players saw the flop, including the beanpole Asian kid. The TTx flop was useless and we all checked. The turn was a Queen, and I thought my pair was good. I checked again, as did beanpole, and the button made a $15 or $20 bet. I called, and beanpole did too. The river was a blank and I bet out $25 or so. Beanpole pushed all-in for probably $35 more, and I felt committed to call. He showed QT for a turned fullhouse, and I was the huckleberry in that hand. I shouldn't have played Q9s in the first place.

After a while, I was dealt JJ in early position. I raised to $12, since $20 would likely win me the $3 blinds only. I got called in a couple of spots. The flop was QJ4 with two clubs. With middle set, I bet out $25, part of my bet the set strategy. A smart looking caucasian player in a green fleece raises to $60 total. When it got back to me, I considered my options. I wasn't sure what he had, but I was sure he was strong. I was considering raising to $150 to ruin his pot odds for the flush draw, but ultimately decided to push all-in for $301 total. I was confident that I was currently ahead, and I also thought I could reel him in for a big payout. He considered for a while, and I began hamming it up, even joking that "Let me pretend like I'm on TV" as I stood up, paced and made faces and moans indicating that I was stressed. It was a big goof and I was having fun, but ultimately he folded 44 face up. Fred started to critique his play publicly, announcing that he folded the best hand. I mucked and kept quiet until much later, when I told the guy the truth. He seemed like a smart guy and this too fell into the "make friends" strategy to longterm poker success. In hindsight, I suppose I should've bet less, but I did take down a $100+ pot.

My next big hand was TT in the SB. There were two limpers before a long-haired pretty boy who had just sat down with about $100 raised to $12 on the button. I hadn't seen him play yet, but his look and stack led me to believe he was fishy. I raised to $25, hoping to isolate, and was successful. The flop was A67, and I was upset to see that he probably hit his Ace. I checked and he checked. I knew enough to know that he didn't have the Ace. The turn was another Ace, and I was feeling much better about my TT. I bet out $25 and he called with a slight bit of hesitation. The river was a blank and I pushed all-in. He only had about $40-60 left, so I felt comfortable with laying the pressure on him. He folded and I was vindicated.

In another hand, I was dealt QQ, and faced a straddle for $5. I raised to $20, expecting to narrow the field, and got two callers, including a black guy who had just sat down an orbit earlier and was playing horribly. He was overaggressive, making plays with A7o and the like, and I had him set as my mark. Fred was complaining about him, referring to him as the Big Bettor, but I kept repeating, "That's my bread and butter over there." The flop was KQ2. I flopped a set again. I bet out $40, expecting the Big Bettor to raise like he seemed to do in every other hand, but he folded as did the other player. I wondered if betting the set was smart, but I still stand by the play.

In the last significant hand I played, I got my piece of the Big Bettor. I had AKo in MP and the player who folded the set of fours raised to $15 in EP. I just called, not wanting to throw money into the pot with two high cards. I was also readying myself to leave within the next 15 minutes. Fred called and then Big Bettor raised to $60 total from the button. The Set Folder folded. He was all too proud of his folds, something I've exhibited in the past. When it got to me, I considered my options. I could call, and then fear Fred's action, since I knew Fred had it in for the Big Bettor. I could fold and give up the $15, but the Big Bettor's range was wide. I could raise. Ultimately, I decided to raise. The Big Bettor was not on his third buy-in (or more) for $200, having busted just one hand prior. He was definitely tilting and acting incredulous that his A7 lost to A8! I knew he was playing those weak Aces, and his $60 raise seemed like someone trying desperately to win their money back as soon as possible. I raised to $300 total, to make sure that I covered Big Bettor's stack and scared off Fred. Fred flashed me his 88 and folded. Not surprisingly, Big Bettor called. The flop was all low cards. The turn was an Ace. The river was a King. I had hit two pair and tabled my cards. He mucked, obviously upset, and justified his play to the players who were chiding him (intentionally to get him to tilt, from my vantage point). He admitted to having AT. My read was dead on.

I left the NiceLook with $230 more than I came with after some decent swings. I had reloaded $100 when I dipped below $200 at one point ($300 max), but otherwise, was never down more than $102 or so. Just another successful day at the club.

If anything, this trip was a lesson in table selection. I identified that the first table was too aggressive and deepstacked for my style and made the switch. Remember folks, if you can control the conditions under which you play, you can often control your success.

This week is less pokery than usual. I've got no plans so far, but wifey Kim is going to another conference on Sunday and I'm toying with the idea of a home game. But then again, why have a home game when the club is so profitable.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 7:40 PM, ,

The Gift of Gab

I am extremely busy at the office today, but I had to take 5 minutes out to post about yesterday's tournament at Salami. The last time I was there with 23Skidoo, Skidz and I chopped first and second place in the $60 re-register tournament (like a rebuy tournament, but you have to repay the fee too) for a tidy sum of dough. Dawn from IHO was there too, and she went out 4th, so among the few people I knew at the game (there may've been one other), bloggers took down 3 of the top 4 spots.

This time, it was me, Matty Ebs, and Skidoo, we placed 4th, 3rd and 1st, respectively. A hearty congratulations to Skidoo, who rocked the game and had a massive chiplead once we were four-handed.

I could go into detail about the game, but I really don't have the time. I played extremely well, except for a stupid play with the suited hammer. One hand, in particular, needs attention.

We were four-handed, and I was the shortstack with about 5,500 and blinds of 300/600, 50 ante. I was looking for a spot to push, and I was dealt K4d in the BB. At this point in the game, I had been playing tight for a while. I was hoping to use that to my advantage. With the decent blinds and antes, the pot was 1100 if it folded to me outright. However, Skidoo on the button, opted to limp while looking at me and saying rather nonchalantly, "He's just going to push anyway." He was right, too. I was planning on pushing. I figured he had position and a big stack, so his limping range was broad. I figured he'd fold rather than double me up, but if he did call, I might have two live cards, which was enough for me at this desperate point in the game. Matty Ebs folded in the SB and I checked in the BB. Why did I check? Because of Skidoo's comment. "He is just going to push anyway." It echoed in my head. If he knew I was going to push, then he knew that by limping, he'd need to have good cards. He'd also be likely to call me, even with not so good cards, because he already factored in the high probability (by his statement, a certainty), that I was going to push. I decided it would be better to see a flop. If I hit it, I can make my move. If I miss, I can fold.

The flop was TTK, a fantastic flop for me in this instance. I checked, expecting Skidoo to make a play. He checked too. The turn was another Ten. I believe I pushed all-in here. If I didn't, then I at least bet and then called a raise all-in, but from my sketchy recollection, I pushed. The logic was that it would look like an overbet bluff, and I could get paid off. When Skidoo called, I remembered hoping that he had Ace-high. I also figured him for a King, so we would chop. But what I said was, "Show me the ten." He did. JTo.

After the game, over drinks paid for by the very courteous (and flush with dough) Skidoo, I brought up the hand. He admitted that he made the "He is just going to push..." comment in order to get me to check. It worked, and the hand played out in his favor.

I have to say, I was impressed. I like table chatter, but that was a precise feat of verbal surgery he performed and the results translated nicely into cold hard cash. I give a lot of credit to Skidoo, and I thank him for that hand, because if nothing else, it made me aware of a new weapon, suggesting to a player (especially a shortstacked one) that you are expecting them to do a certain thing, so that they do the exact opposite. I suppose on some level it is rudimentary, but seeing it performed was fantastic, and definitely something I can see working on a semi-regular basis. After all, confronting a shortstack with their likelihood to push also implies your likeliness to call, and to an astute shortstack player, they will realize that much of the value of the shortstack push is to force folds and take the blinds.

So, kudos to Skidoo, who now officially owns Salami after beating the tournament in 2 out of 2 tries. Also, kudos to Matty Ebs for lasting until 3rd.

The HighOnPoker Poker Week Extravaganza commences tonight at a new homegame. I'll be attending the homegame of law school friend/acquaintance John R. It's actually held in some private club, I suppose akin to a country club of some sort in the city. The game is mixed, which is just up my alley, and the goal is to meet some new people and have a good time. I don't think I've ever mentioned the blog to John, so I'll do my best to keep it hush hush so I can speak freely about it here.

Saturday will be an afternoon of alcohol-induced tomfoolery courtesy of my younger brother's birthday. Sunday, wifey Kim is at a conference, so I'll be playing at NiceLook, assuming I haven't OD'ed on poker before then.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 12:40 PM, ,

Twilight Zone

Sometimes, poker is just weird. I went to the Extra Big Bet Club tonight with the intention of playing and winning the Team Poker tournament with my all-star team of me, Mikey Aps and Matty Ebs. When I arrived, the rain was pouring heavily, and Mikey Aps had called to let me know he was running late. Our plan was to arrive an hour before the tournament, since only ten teams could play, but since Aps was running late, I went inside and prepped for some poker.

I had changed into my poker gear at the office. I'm sure the Second in Command around here must've thought it odd when I was dashing around the office last minute in a $uperman t-shirt and grey cargo track pants, but I have little shame. When I arrived at the club, Ebs was already at a 1/2 NL table. I was watching the table and got a good feel from the players almost instantly. Yesteday, I watched a You Tube clip that was supposed to be an FBI interrogator talking about reads and how they apply to poker. It was a waste of time for the most part, but he did offer one piece of advice. Don't watch the lips. Don't watch the eyes. Watch everything. I like to focus on particular tells, but sometimes if you can open your eyes to everything in front of you, you can "sense" what the person is thinking. I liken it to the concepts in the HoP-highly-recommended book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. The idea is that your subconscious is putting together all of these subconscious clues and hints, and that "hunch" you have is actually your brain processing information that you can't readily perceive on your own. For instance, I think I mentioned micro-expressions here. I did a You Tube search of that as well, and when I was watching one video, it would show people alternatively lying and telling the truth, and it would name the micro-expression in text when it showed. I found myself watching the mouth and then seeing the text say "Rapid Blinking." I didn't notice, because I was so damned focused on the mouth. So, basically, I was getting reads on players and noticing specific things like how one player shuffled his cards or how another threw his bet in forcefully, but I was also soaking in the totality of their demeanor.

Damn chain-of-consciousness posts! I didn't expect to get into that today at all.

Moving on, as I waited for Aps to arrive, I noticed it was sweltering in the room. The EBB Club is seemingly always packed, and when you have a small-ish room with so many people and little ventilation, the place just turns into a furnace. I have two pants that I like to use for poker. The first are army green cargo pants with a shit-load of pockets, most with zippers. This allows me to carry everything, and the material is fairly breathable. The other pair is a grey pair of convertible cargo pants. Aside from the usual pockets, the grey pair only has two velcro pockets right above the knees, sufficient to hold my money and other trinkets. The real benefit to the grey pair, however, is the fact that they are convertibles. For you uninitiated, that means that I can unzip the pant legs and make them into shorts. I love this in a poker room, because I hate to be at the whim of the room's temperature. Either its too hot or too cold, and often both, alternating, so I like to have a hooded sweatshirt and pants I can roll up or turn into shorts. In a way, I follow the boy scouts motto of always being prepared. I suppose it may seem anal, but to me, its just smart. Take care of all of the things you can control for optimal conditions, like climate in this case, and just concentrate on the game.

So, I unzipped my pant legs and waited for Mikey. There was a chance the tournament was not going to happen, so when Mikey arrived, we joined Ebs at the same 1/2 NL table. After about 45 minutes of play, we had to get up for the tournament, but during that 1/2 NL session, I lost $11 and experienced a very interesting situation.

This hand could only happen in the Twilight Zone. I had 45s and was UTG, so I limped, hoping it would limp around. The flop, if recollection is correct, was J88 with two spades. It was actually a fairly tight table, so I bet out $12, about pot, and got two callers. The first caller was a small Asian kid with messed up teeth and a round head on a skinny neck and body. He was super shortstacked with just $30 or so before the hand, and now he had only $16 left after calling me. I think the other player, who may've been Ebs, folded. The turn was an offsuit 3, doing absolutely nothing for me. I checked, he pushed all-in for $16 into a $36 pot, and I called. The river was an offsuit 2. I had the worst possible hand! WORST! Obviously, there was no more betting since my opponent was all-in. We stared at each other for a few seconds and he said, "You have the full house?" I mumbled my reply as my headphones played quietly in my ears, "I'm not showing first. I called you." Remember, this is one of my key points of advice. If he is the last aggressor, make him show first. I don't know what he thought he heard, but after I said it, he mucked his hand. The pot was pushed to me, and once it was all within my hands, I asked the dealer, "The pot is mine? He mucked." "Yes." Once I had confirmation, I flipped my cards face-up. I don't think the guy even realized that he mucked the winning hand until another player asked him what he had. "High-card King." "You had the winning hand, man!" I'm glad that guy pointed it out. I showed merely because I was trying to get the round-faced Asian to tilt some more.

We were called for the tournament, and we all took our seats. The tournament consisted of ten teams with three players each, paying $330 total, $300 into the pot and $30 to the house. Three single table tournaments took place simultaneously. 10th place at each table got 10 pts, 9th got 20, and so forth, until first got 100 pts. If you won your table, you also got $200, which Aps, Ebs and I agreed to split $100 to the winner, and $50 to each of the teammates. The single team with the most points at the end of the three SNGs would win the rest of the prizepool.

I'll start with this. We didn't win. In fact, I think it is safe to say that we lost...BIG. When the tournament began, someone busted on the first hand at Table 2. That person was Mikey Aps, and this is his hand: Aps has AQ in late position. Everyone started with 5k in chips, with 25/50 blinds. He raised to 300 preflop after a limper or two. There were only two callers, both acting before Aps. The flop was AJ3. It checked to Aps and he bet 650 into the pot. He only got one caller. The turn was a Q, giving Aps top two pair. The player, out of position, bets 1000 for the first time in the hand. Mikey decided to push with top two pair and was called by KT, for a turned straight. Discussing it with Mikey, I told him that it wasn't really his fault. That was a tough hand, and he had a lot of reason to think that pushing was the optimal play. I know I probably would've done the same.

This is a TEAM event, so most players are playing tighter because lasting from 10th to 9th is worth as many points as lasting from 3rd to 2nd (10 pt increments throughout) AND you have other people relying on you. For that reason, there is no reason to think that someone is calling you preflop out of position with KT, and then calling another bet out of position with an inside straight draw and no overcards to the Ace-high board. I really can't blame Mikey for not putting him on KT. The only things that Mikey should've been scared of was a set, but even that seems unlikely. Mikey has an Ace and Queen, so AA and QQ would require the other guy to have a the case cards. He could have JJ or 33, but that was the only real threat from how I saw it. Still, he lost the hand, and left fairly quickly once he was out. I felt a bit bad. It was his first time in an underground casino, so I think that may have thrown him off a bit too.

Good news, though. Mikey was not alone. I also went out in 10th! In my first hand, I held QQ. A chick in EP raised to 200 and I absentmindedly threw out a 500 chip. When you throw out a single chip, it is considered a call unless you announce otherwise before you toss in the chip. I meant to raise, but whatever! There was another caller behind me. The flop was Ace-high and after the chick bet out, I folded. She showed AK. At least I saved myself some dough.

I went on to see 99 twice and 66 once, and AQ or something like that too. This was all within very few hands, and I either kept missing the flop or it was readily apparent that other people hit the overcards or Aces that seemed to always flop. Mikey busted and everyone knew we were teammates, so people joked about how I needed to win it. I sincerely believed that philosophy too, so I began to look to how I could win 1st place at my table and take the $200 prize at the least.

My bets stopped getting respect after someone mentioned that I raised every hand. I was dealt 99 again and there were three limpers before me in MP. I raised to 300 total to try to take the hand down, but a guy in the SB raised to 1000 total. He was a tall, gaunt skin-head looking guy, sorta like Vinne Jones from the Guy Ritchie movies and Juggernaut from the X-men movies. These guys tend to play aggressive and stupid poker, so I decided to double-up or go home. I pushed all-in expecting him to have AQ or something. When he called, he showed 77. The flop had a 7 and I was out. I didn't really mind losing since I played the hand perfectly. You can't win them all. I told Ebs, who now had to win his entire table just to earn something back.

I was considering leaving, but it was barely 9pm and I knew wifey Kim wouldn't be home yet from her America's Next Top Model gathering with her friends. I went to the cage to get $300 in chips for a 1/2 table. When I was there, Ron, the tournament director, was panickingly looking for a AAA battery for the tournament clock, which just died. I had my old FM walkman on me, and I pulled out the battery. "I have one." He looked shocked and extremely pleased. "Free half-hour on the house!" Sweet! At these games, instead of rake, each player pays $5 each half hour to the new dealer who sits. Free $5!

I sat at the table I left earlier because I had a read on one kid who barely looked 19. Most of the table had changed and it took a while before I noticed that I was the oldest one there. The rest were these skinny little kids, dressed tough in their Abercrombie. Honestly, they looked like HS seniors, or college sophmores at most. Most of them looked like they didn't need to shave, and while they acted tough and cool, I could see right through them. A lot of them were also sporting the shortstacks, which I just love. I guess it makes sense, since these kids probably were spending their textbook money at the cardroom.

I stayed quiet, trying to build an image. I finally decided to bet out from the button with K5o. I bet $12 and surprisingly got three callers, including the round-faced Asian who mucked the winning hand earlier. The flop was AJx. When it checked to me, I fired out a bet of $20, hoping to take it down right there. To my surprise, the round-faced Asian moved all-in for $43 total, a mere $23 on top. To a greater surprise, the tall skinny Asian guy on my right called the all-in. I would've folded, but the tall Asian was a smart player and I knew he would check it down. With his money in the pot, the odds were right to call with any two, even though I had crap. I called and the turn was a Q. The tall Asian checked and I checked behind. The river was a T, giving me a straight! Twilight Zone, baby! He checked, I bet $15, and he folded. We showed my straight. One of the hairless boys said nice hand. He looked impressed. I played it down. "Sometimes it just falls in your lap."

When I left the game after my free half-hour, I was up $95. Overall, I lost $35 on the night, including the $10 bet that Ebs, Aps and I agreed to. Ebs was still playing and eventually busted in 2nd place. The winning team had two 1st place finishes and a 3rd place finish, beating my guess that the winner would have a 1st and a 2nd.

I discussed the children at the NL table with Ebs over the phone after he lost the tournament. "Wait until the summer," he added. "All the kids will be back from school with nothing to do. That room is going to be filled with fish."

I prefer NiceLook for the class and space, but EBB has something more important: crappy players. Thank the lord for options.

I'll be at Salami tonight playing the 7:30pm $60 tournament with 23Skidoo. If you'd like to join, hit me up with an email or leave your email in a comment.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 10:19 PM, ,

Stake Out

Poker poker poker! I've been playing more and more live poker lately, with a marathon of poker expected in the next three days. I mentioned in my last post about the issue regarding stakes. Basically, if the stakes are too low, I am not turned onto the thing. This has some obvious exceptions, and the truth is, it is more of a cost-benefit approach to when I'm willing to play low stakes or not. Overall, though, this departure from my old "no stakes too low for me" policy is, I believe, a sign of development in my game and my way of thinking. Let's delve into this a bit further.

From the get-go, I started playing very small stakes. Whether it was $1 SNGs online or $10 or $20 live tournaments with my friends, the real goal was to have some fun, play a game, and kill some time. I always wanted to play higher, but I didn't need to. My policy was simple: as long as there was something at stake, be it $.10 or $10, the players have something to lose/win and therefore they would play somewhat realistically, as opposed to play money where all rules and logic are out the door. This actually helped me greatly, because I was willing to play anything, and I got more and more experience. Eventualliy, the bankroll grew, and I was amazed to be playing with whole dollars online (even just 1/2 Limit was a big jump). Live, I was still somewhat of a small fish. I preferred the $60 (at first $40, then $50 and finally $60) tournament at Salami over any and all other live underground poker, and I wouldn't expect a homegame with anything more than a $20 tournament. Heck, the Roose game even dropped to $15 tournaments for a while, which was fine by me. I didn't have the expendable dough, I didn't have the experience, and I didn't have the impetus to play higher.

And then came the Ship It Fish homegame. I was definitely playing outside of my bankroll, but the thought of playing random games like Badugi and Razz live was too much to turn away. I remember the first time I played in the SIF game, I had brought $300, a tidy sum for a guy who wouldn't lose more than $60 on a given night. I was somewhat nervous, but I was even more excited. I ended up winner for $35 or so, but over the next two sessions at the SIF game, I went on decent runs, winning hundreds of dollars. Meanwhile, my casino game was getting better. I won about $700 in one session of 1/2 NL in AC at the perfect table. A while later, I won over $900 in a tournament in AC.

This basically swelled the bankroll over a long period of time. I'll admit, to this day I am still not above $2000 live bankroll. I'm not too concerned of this, since I had withdrawn from those funds a couple of times when needed, and after a decent win, I'll skim a bit off the top so that I get some practical use from the stack of $100s in my hidden spot. Still, the larger bankroll afforded me the opportunity to play 1/2 NL in some of the underground clubs in NYC, and thanks to introductions to EBB Club and the NiceLook Club by Chris, I realized that there were winnable NLHE underground games in NYC. Before then, it was just Salami for me, where the tournament was cheap, but the 1/2 NL had people buying in for $500 or more and throwing money around like they had disdain for their chips. The game could be profitable, but you'd have to have a very deep bankroll in order to handle the swings.

So, now I'm a regular 1/2 NL player and I've tried 2/5 NL once. Now what?

The bottom line is, I've realized that I appreciate the game more when the stakes are higher. I'm not talking 100/200 NL here. We are simply talking about 1/2 NL, but for a guy who has gotten most of his experience in low limit homegames and online games, 1/2 NL is actually bigger stakes. I was always comfortable with 1/2 NL in casinos, but that was a few times a year. Now, I'm aching for it a few times a week.

What is it all about? Is the fact that low limit turns me off a bad sign? Does it mean that I'm turning my back on the attitude that poker is for fun as much as it is for profit? Hardly. The reality is that I would still gladly play low stakes games, but I'm no longer the desperate player I once was. I can turn down a game that involves travel, be it to Brooklyn for Dawn's weekly Wednesday game or Queens for Roose's weekly Wednesday tournament, because I can get my fix in a casino. If either of those players lived across the street or even just generally in Manhattan, things would be different. But that's not the case. So, in the past, I would jones for poker and when there was a game, I would get myself there, regardless of the stakes. I was wearing myself out, traveling home late at night tired and spending any profit on my travel expenses anyway (once I won $40 at Roose's but missed the last train; I caught a cab and it cost $40 exactly to get home). Now, I can politely skip the games and go to the club, where the stakes cause more excitement (admittedly), and the travel is easy and cheap. I can win hundreds instead of tens, and what I lack in good ole times with my buds, I can make up for away from the poker table.

Looking at what I've written, there is definitely a dichotomy to my situation. On one hand, money does matter. I want to win money and lots of it. I want to build my bankroll and play higher stakes so when I have a good day, I'm bringing home thousands and not hundreds. That is definitely one of the elements that makes poker exciting. On the other hand, the other thing that makes poker great are the people, like the folks I met through Dawn's game or Roose's game or SIF's game. From poker alone, I met a slew of people I would otherwise not have known existed. For the most part, I like them all, and for an anti-social prick like me, its odd to be "meeting new friends." But that's what poker does, in a way. It creates social interaction at the table and shows a commonality between the players. No matter how different I am from Redd from Dawn's homegame, or Marc from Roose's, or Chris from SIF's, we know we have something in common, a love for the game. Those people are the same whether you are at a low buy-in game or a high one. In that regards, stakes don't matter.

I guess what I've come to is that stakes matter to me, but in a cost-benefit way. I need stakes that make it worthwhile to play if there are costs to playing, be them lost sleep or travel time or travel costs. I am excited by the higher stakes, but I'd just as soon play lower stakes if the game was across the street.

Interestingly, this stakes issue applies to online poker too. I loathe playing anything under $20 tournaments, 2/4 limit, or .50/1 NL, but I'm not even bankrolled anymore for those games. So, I fire up a tournament and I play like shit because I'm just not tuned in. The exception is the blogger games. Why? The same reason as stated above, the people. In blogger games, I'm playing with people and my results matter more because these are people whose opinions matter to me. I can't same the same for a random table of people because online, there is no interaction with the players at the table. I can sit at a table of strangers at NiceLook but by the end of my session, I sorta know the players and they sorta know me. Online, I'm just an avatar, and my actions don't matter. The social aspect is gone, and therefore stakes matter so much more. It's largely why I'm down to less than $40 online right now. I've donked a bunch and I can't seem to get a good grasp on my game. The sole exceptions are the blogger tournaments, but I haven't cashed in those in a while (the competition is fierce). Perhaps I'd play a $50 tournament online a lot better than a $5, but I'm not going to find out. No, sir.

So, my stakes have been raising live, and while I'd like to play higher online, I recognize that online poker sucks donkey balls. I'm proud to be playing 1/2 NL regularly and I look forward to making that next step when the time is right. Meanwhile, I look forward to times with friends away from table and at the table. Because poker is about two things for me right now, the people and the money. I can play with one and not the other, but in a perfect world, they would always be balanced.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 10:14 AM, ,

Help Me?

I really do take things too seriously sometimes. Last night, I was up at about 1 am, getting everything together last minute for the court appearance I had this morning. I should've just gone to bed because it was all for naught.

When I woke up this morning, I was exhausted. I literally sat in bed wondering what day it was. I was still trying to convince myself it was Saturday when I looked over to the alarm clock. It was 7:14am, one minute before my alarm was scheduled to go off, and, luck of lucks, my alarm was set to off. I guess this was kinda a good thing, but I was immediately miserable. It was barely Tuesday and I was already living for the weekend.

Court this morning was a debacle. The Court messed up and made us wait a ridiculous amount of months for a conference, and then when we appeared at the conference, informed us that all deadlines would be based on our request for the conference, and not the conference date itself. As a result, we had lost many months, and lost many more when the defendants decided to play some shenanigans and hide the fact that we sued the wrong doctor (same name, same hospital, different doctor...motherfuckers). So, when I asked the judge for an extension today and some help in getting the defendants to provide the discovery requested, I thought I was on the side of the angels. I still am, I suppose. It's just that the judge runs with the devils. Fucking devils.

Sure, this is pretty much what I complained about earlier, but its still hanging with me. Is it wrong to wish that people used common sense and logic, or at the very least followed the rules set out, be them by the legislature, the Court, or by any other authority. I mean this across the board. Why can't people just do what they are supposed to do? Why does the waitress disapfuckingpear when I clearly want my check after I'm done eating. Isn't the logical thing to give me my check? Why does everyone think that the rules don't apply to them? Shit, I have no idea.

I believe in honesty and decency. I believe in doing what you are supposed to do, when you are supposed to do it. Do you have an appointment or an obligation? Meet it! Do you have a schedule or set plans? Show up on time! It really isn't that hard.

But alas, that's not how we, as people, are built. Instead, the vast majority of us are wrapped up in our own shit too much to realize or even care that our lack of common decency is dragging everyone else down with them. Misery loves company, too, you know. Don't forget that one.

So it's with all this in mind that I have decided that I probably will not be hosting a live poker game this Sunday. There are plenty of reasons why I shouldn't throw the game, and the lack of common decency (or is it common degeneracy?) is one. I simply cannot expect people to show up at any predetermined time. It's an interesting thing that happens at regular poker games. You invite guests to arrive at 7pm, and some show up at 7:10. Next week, some show up at 7:10, but the laggers are now showing up at 7:20. It's like a lateness race! Who can be latest! I guess players are too concerned with waiting around, because it seems like no one wants to be there first, not to mention on time. Not me, though. If you are throwing a poker game and want the company, I'll be there, on time, with my pre-packed backpack filled with all sorts of items to keep me happy while I wait out the masses. And I will wait, too. Lord knows it is all too common for these games to start an hour later than expected.

There are a couple of other reasons why I don't think I'll throw the game. One is that the stakes I'm interested in are probably not akin to what many of my less bankrolled/less experienced friends would agree with. I couldn't play the IHO cash game on Friday or the usual Wednesday NL cash game Dawn throws because I just can't play for .25 blinds. I don't knock them for it. Hardly. I'm actually sorta envious, but I've gotten a taste for whole dollars, as in 1/2 NL, and I just don't find anything less as appealing. I could maybe do it with friends in a pickup format, but I ain't making a trip for lower stakes. Oh, and to the IHO girls, I'm not going all snooty on you. I'm a big fan and all that jazz. I'm just telling it like it is.

So, where was I? Okay, so grumpy wake-up, asshole judge, decision not to throw homegame. Yeah. That's just about it. It's time for me to open up the phone lines now. I could really use some of your help, people, and while I usually don't get much in the way of responses, I know for a fact that someone out there must have some useful answers to the several questions I am about to ask. Here we go:

  1. I'm oh so close to earning a free flight with my United Air Miles, and once I've got it, I'm closing that godforsaken account. Now, can anyone suggest a creditcard that gives good rewards without a fee?
  2. I'm heading to Las Vegas in May for Roose's bachelor party. Can anyone suggest a good sports book for the guys and I to sit and watch the Yankees v. Mets game on Friday night or Saturday afternoon?
  3. While I'm in Vegas, I may need to hire some private entertainment (cough Strippers cough) for some entertainment. We have access to a condo out there. I don't know what we have in mind other than broad(s) showing their ta-tas, but if anyone can suggest any such services, especially if they might be amenable to, um, extras, please let me know.
  4. I'm looking for a good poker tournament $150 and under, ideally, for Friday daytime, Saturday daytime or Thursday night. Any ideas?
I think that's it. Boy, I am quite the little bitch, what with all this bitchin' and moanin' and these requests.

Until next time, blah blah blah.

posted by Jordan @ 4:55 PM, ,

IHOpping Mad

This pic is for the ladies of I Had Outs. Meanwhile, I am fighting the evil dragon in the form of an incompetent judge. I thought losing runner-runner full-house with my 24h flush was bad, but after this morning, I really felt the wind knocked out of me. While I would love to detail it here, I'll just say that I was treated, once again, like the villain in a lawsuit where my client is a goddamn infant who was injured during childbirth by doctors who obviously used the wrong procedure. The judge, however, seems to act as though I'm some sleazebag lawyer trying to squeeze some money out of the pockets of the oh so poor insurance companies with my bullshit lawsuit. Sorry, motherfucker, but the system is made exactly for my clients and their predicament, and your handling of the matter is indicative of why justice moves slowly, if at all. Yeah, so, not too bitter.

Fucking judge.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 1:32 PM, ,

He Had Outs

Hey all. In case you missed it, I posted You Decide #50 earlier today. In that hand, I was in the Big Blind as one of the larger stacks with only 9 or so people left out of 19 that started the tournament. After a player in mid-position limped and the SB chipleader, who announced he had to leave very soon, called, we saw a flop, T93, all hearts (I incorrectly stated T83 in You Decide #50, but it doesn't change the hand). I made a baby flush with my 24h and got into a raising war with the chipleader. In the end, I pushed all-in, he called. 24h vs. KhTx. Many of you agreed that pushing was the right play, and our assumptions about the SB's range were correct. He called with top pair, second-nut flush draw. At the time, I had him on the Ah or Kh, so I was right as well. I wasn't worried too much about the bigger flush, although that was definitely my major (and only) concern. At the flop, I was actually 68.38% ahead of my competition and I prayed that another heart would not come. It didn't. Instead, the turn was a 9, and the river was an 9. I was ecstatic for about .02 seconds, and then I saw the full house.

If I had any doubts about how I played the hand, it was this: with this many players left, did it make sense to get all-in against one of the only (or possibly THE only) player who could bust me? I'm still not 100% sure. I got in as an almost 70% favorite, but I also believe that tournament poker is often about avoiding going all-in. I'm on the fence because, had I won, I would've been a prohibitive chipleader and I could've potentially coasted to the money and then been in great position to make a deal for good money. All-in-all, I'd probably play the hand the same way, though.

That's how I got tossed from the I Had Outs tournament this past Friday. Losing like that was a real blow. I often write about how you should not focus on how others played. Yes, I'm anti-rant, mostly because I think the ranter gets little benefit out of it. In fact, I sincerely believe that the ranters (there are always exceptions, and if you've thrown out a rant or two, let's pretend like you are that exception, since I don't feel like arguing over, really, you are the exception...rant on...) do themselves a disservice because they fail to see how they could have changed their fate. That is not to say that I don't react to bad beats. I most certainly do.

When I first lost the hand, it felt like I was punched in the gut. I mean, literally, punched in the gut. I think a heart would've been easier to process, but runner-runner full house was a blow. It was very similar to the time that I bubbled in the Showboat tournament many many months ago. I remember I held AQ v. KQ all-in preflop, and when that K hit, I stood up, didn't say a word and just walked as far away as possible trying to gather my thoughts. This time, I got up from the table, may've said, Good Game, and then walked away. Karol saw the look of shock on my face and suggested I step outside to join some of the people celebrating April 20th. I could use the air, so I walked out onto the balconey. From there, I chatted with some of the fellow players who had busted. I didn't particularly mention the hand other than to tell them I had busted. I may have given a quick rundown, but only because they were surprised that I was out. Before that hand, I was a strong chipleader (although not #1) and I was playing extremely well.

A couple of the people tried to talk me in to staying for the .25/.25 NL ($25 max) cash game, but I couldn't play that cheap. I was stuck $60 ($30+$30 rebuy), and anything less than .25/.50 $50 max seemed pointless (frankly, I would've been glad with 1/2). But I also felt that I was going to chase losses and go on tilt. I didn't want a relatively minor loss caused by odds to turn into a major one caused by my own stupidity, so as I sat on the couch and we discussed the possible stakes, I finally had to relent and tell the room that I was heading home. It was just past midnight and I had had my fill for the day. So, I lost the hand, it tilted me, but I didn't act on my tilt. To me, it feels almost like winning. Almost...

So, how did I become such a force at the final table? Actually, from the Crackhouse gang's usual players, especially Alceste and Mary. At first, I was sitting at the main table with a bunch of players I didn't know as well. I eventually gave up my first stack to Ron Lad, Karol's brother, on two hands that saw him with monster hands and me with a stubborn refusal to recognize that I was beat or my bluff wouldn't work. I joked as I rebought that I don't play for real until my second buy-in. It seems like a trend at these games, but its likely more to do with the fact that, by the second buy-in, I know the table a lot better. For instance, Matt, a player I had never played with before, was clearly on tilt, playing tons of hands loosely and aggressively. I held 69h on one hand, and when he raised preflop, I called (along with another loose player) from the blinds. I knew he was ahead at that point, likely with a bare Ace or something similar, because he was willing to make preflop raises with as little as A7. When the flop came down 589, I checked. He bet out $500 (this is in the early goings, so that's a big bet), and I raised to $1500. He folded and I heard him say he had AJ. The check raise with such a seemingly vulnerable hand might seem like an odd play, but I knew he was folding because he rarely ran into any resistance, at least in the early goings. Aside from this, I scrapped up some more chips as I tried to get to 6k, essentially my starting stack (3k) plus my rebuy stack (3k).

When I was moved to the other table, I sorta grumbled. The couch was a much worse seat for comfort, and I was playing with some of the Crackhouse (the name of the weekly low limit NL cash game) regulars. They all see me as loosey goosey (no matter how much I note their opinion of me here), so I was able to chip up nicely by taking out Alceste (his 99 v. my QQ), and winning a big pot off of Mary when she called me down with an unpaired AK, and my T6 had flopped top pair (I did, admittedly lead her on). To Mary's credit, she made a great laydown in an earlier hand I re-raised her preflop with AA. She was definitely considering pushing all-in on top of me, but somehow she got away from her hand. I had assumed she was on something like AK, and when I said, "Big slick?" she looked at me like I was crazy. "What then, QQ?" "QQ!!" she replied, "I wish!" Later, I told her I had Aces. She had 88 or 99. It was then that she realized she was happy she didn't have 88 or 99. Other big hands saw me bust a player when I played J8s in LP. The flop was a seemingly harmless 368 rainbow flop. When it checked to me, I bet out. The SB, a smart player, raised all-in. I had to consider the possibility that he got a SB special, two pair. I made the praying call though, and he showed A3o. Ka ching!

But alas, it was all for naught. I ended up losing, but I had an exceptionally good time. Thanks again to Dawn and Karol, along with all of the players. If all goes well, I may have even scored myself an invite to the Wall Street homegame. That's a mere three blocks from my apartment, so I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that it happens.

This is a crazy week for poker. Aside from today and tomorrow, wifey Kim and I have our own separate plans for the rest of the week except for Saturday. Wednesday is her usual girl's night to watch America's Next Top Model. I'll be at EBB with Matty Ebs and Mikey Aps playing our team poker tournament. Hopefully, 23Skidoo will be around on Thursday, and I will probably be meeting him and one or two other people over at Salami for the $60 tournament. Friday will see my first appearance at a homegame hosted by a law school acquaintance. It should be particularly interesting, since the game is mostly Stud variations and draw games. The players also seemingly have more knowledge than me in those areas, but also seem to be more social players, as opposed to for-profit players. Saturday is a day with wifey Kim, followed by Sunday, when she will be at some other conference, this time in NYC. I may be hosting a home game, but I'm just as tempted to return to NiceLook. After all, if I throw a homegame, I have to worry about gathering players, negotiate on stakes and then clean up after everyone leaves. I'm also usually more distracted during the game. At NiceLook, the stakes are set, the players are fishy, and all I have to do is remember to bring my sunglasses. Hmmm...

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 1:41 PM, ,

You Decide #50

You are playing in a large homegame tournament, 19 people. You've sat at both tables due to rebalancing midway through the game. When the two tables merge, there are 10 or 9 players left, with 4 spots paying out. You are within the top three stacks with about 14k, and blinds of 200/400. You are in the SB with 24h.

A loose, smart player limps from MP. It folds around to the SB, a good player who has announced that he has to leave in less than an hour, and therefore must bust 6 or so people in a half-hour to make a deal and leave early. He is also the chipleader, covering you by about 3k (i.e., 17k total). He calls. You check.

The flop was T83, all hearts. You have the baby flush, the babiest flush possible. The SB checks. You bet about the size of the pot. The MP player folds. The SB raises back at you to 5k, total. If you re-raise you'll be re-raising about 8.5k. Do you make the re-raise all-in, call, or fold?

I re-raised all-in. The results of this hand, along with my analysis, later.

posted by Jordan @ 9:21 AM, ,

Team HoP

Ooowee! Sometimes, poker just overwhelms my senses and I find myself in a sudden poker-induced high. This time, the high was brought on my a series of emails between Matty Ebs and myself.

When Ebs and I got the email from Extra Big Bet Club (EBB), we both noticed the team event. The basic premise has a maximum of ten teams consisting of 3 players each. Each player will play in a 10-person SNG. Obviously, each SNG will contain one member of each team. The teams will be awarded points based on how the teammates place. The teams with the highest points receive dough for 1st, 2nd, and, I think, 3rd overall points. The buy-in is $300+30, or $100+10 for each player.

From this email, Ebs and I shot around the idea of forming a team. We discussed possible thirds, and I immediately thought of Mikey Aps. Mikey Aps was the guy who got me into poker. As kids, I learned poker and all sorts of card games from my two grandmothers. One, who passed away last year, honed my card playing skills with a variety of games, but never fed the gambling aspect. The other, currently residing in (where else) Florida, taught me casino starndards like Blackjack, but also taught me a general love of gambling. This was the grandmother who suggested that the family go to Atlantic City for Thanksgiving (a tradition that lasted many years) because my mother's sisters were engaging in a temporary but reoccuring fued. When I speak to her to this day, she is one of the few people in my family (actually, probably the only one) who will ask me how the poker is going before I bring it up first.

This, of course, is all by way of background.

Now, if my grandmothers taught me the love of cards and gambling, it was my childhood friends who solidified my love. My group of social misfit friends would spend many weekend eveninngs in one of our respective houses playing poker for $.25 a hand, then up to $1 a hand, and by the end of the night, throwing darts for $5 per dart throw. It was a great way to pass time. We could bullshit, have a little excitement, and enjoy each others company. We all loved to gamble on different levels, and Mikey Aps was one of the real gamblers. When the rest of us were just playing every weekend or less, Mikey Aps was in upstate NY at his family's summer home thingee where the kids played cards for much larger sums of money all the time. From Mikey's stories, it seemed that all they did was gamble, and he was keen on being the big winner. If nothing else, Mikey likes to win, be it a poker game, a sports bet, an argument, or a no-holds-barred wrestling match in his living room near the delicate statuettes and knick knacks acquired by his family. Mikey is the type of guy to show relentless aggression, but not thoughtless aggression.

Years later, when I almost forgot about those weekend games, I accidentally caught poker on TV. I thought, Who is watching this crap?, but after watching three hands, I found myself settling in for another hour and then setting my VCR to tape the next hour as I headed out to meet Platinum. A while later, Aps and I met up again from a hiatus that lasted for several months or years after college. He was playing poker, and I decided to join him for a home game. I don't even remember if I won. I think I lost to a suckout to our friend Shawn, who had no idea what he was doing. But over many nights and games, Aps was my gateway into poker and the match that relit that fire inside of me.

When I began throwing home games, Aps was always invited. After a while, though, a couple of people complained and said that they wouldn't play if Aps was there. He was an asshole, always showboating and talking shit. He'd also talk more trash if he lost, but people didn't seem to mind it then, and it became a thing to try to bust Mikey. As much as they were right about Mikey's seemingly rude tilt-inducing table chatter, I sometimes thought that the real problem was that it was working. Mikey may have been one of the louder players at the game (think Hellmuthian), but he was also the biggest winner, regularly taking down the tournaments with seeming ease.

Eventually the home games dried up. In recent months, I've barely seen Mikey. But thanks to the recent housewarming party thrown by our other HS friend, Johnny Ads, Mikey and I got to talking. He was interested in some of the underground clubs, and I would gladly get him in.

When I got the email about the Team Tournament, I immediately thought of Mikey Aps. It helped that he knew Matty Ebs. The two actually were family friends, and while I don't think they see a lot of each other, familiarity with ones teammates is always important. It also helps to have Aps' tilt-inducing antics on my side. Lord knows I wouldn't want him on any other team.

So, now we had a team. All we needed was a team name. I suggested about 6, including NYPD (New York Poker Dep't), the Nutcrackers, and Xtreme Kaos, but in the end, Ebs and I decided on simply High on Poker. It felt a bit odd naming the team "after" this blog, but I consider it more like naming this team the same as the name of the blog. We are each an equal partner, and the HoP name was an easy decision. It is catchy, it speaks a bit about our philosophy, and it was something we could agree on. Still, I'm damn proud. Team HoP.

So, who is Team HoP?

Jordan X- Your loyal author and faithful friend. My strengths are aggression, high-blind tournament poker and reads. My weakness is kryptonite.

Matty Ebs- To me, the most solid and well versed player of the group. Ebs is a former dealer, and he's a thinker. His strengths are likely his in depth knowledge of the game, his experience in a variety of poker environments, and his ability to make smart plays when the time is right. His weakness is the vulnerability of his young boy sidekicks.

Mikey Aps- Gambler extraodinaire, Aps has been playing probably longer than anyone else on the team, but has yet to play in an underground club. His strengths probably lie in his sheer will to win, his tilt-inducing table talk, and his natural instinct for the game. His weakness is his inability to use his powers on anyone wearing yellow (I wonder if that includes skin-tone).

Once we have this illustrious group, the next question is how to play. We are in the process of getting the tournament rules, like chip stacks and blind structure, but we have not received them yet, and may not recevie them before the tournament. The way I see it, though, the points will probably be weighed heavily toward the top, so that no team could win by placing 5th across the board. In fact, with the tough NYC competition, I'm expecting that the winning team will have to win one of the SNGs and place 2nd or 3rd in another. For that reason, I think our best strategy is just to play our own games. We are essentially going to individually try to win each tournament, and its safe to say that the blind levels are going to be comparable to what we are used to (15 minutes minimum, 20 minutes max). So, rather than "play tight to the points" I think we should just bring our individual A-games, and trust each other to know what we are doing.

Oh, and while I hypothetically like the idea of some sort of team uniform or t-shirt, Mikey Aps made a good point last night over the phone. "If we know that one team is ahead, we should probably gun for their other players." True, and that is why we are NOT wearing any sort of team uniform. I don't want people knowing that I'm on their team, in case one of us wins their tournament and makes the other ones targets.

Sounds good? Good.

And while we are at it, I'll be at the IHO tournament tonight. Wish me luck!

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 2:24 PM, ,

I, High On Poker


posted by Jordan @ 10:40 PM, ,

Ace-Queen Follows Me to NiceLook

I don't know what Ace Queen's problem is. Lately, whenever I am sitting at a poker table, virtual or real, Ace Queen keeps showing up like the neighbor chick you hooked up with while drunk at college and now can't seem to shake. I'm trying to bring AA home, but once AQ sees me at the bar, she has to comes up, all drunk with smeared lipstick, being all, "Why haven't you been calling (with) me? Let's hang out," as she paws me and tries her best not to spill her nasty well drink. Sure enough, AA is too high class for this shit, and even KK, QQ and JJ are in the corner looking at me and tsk'ing while AQ insists on getting her attention. More and more, I just want to kick the bitch to the curb, but most often I'm desperate for some action and I'm willing to put up with the bitch as long as she is willing to put out. Yeah, that's the problem though. AQ is a cock tease, so usually after first base (the flop) she falls asleep on me, drooling while we are crammed on the couch semi-spooning with my hand on her boob.

You hear that AQ?! Quit falling asleep on me!

So, I returned to NiceLook card club last night. I left directly from work, having realized that I forgot most of my poker gear. No hat and no sunglasses makes Jordan a very different player. In all actuality, my play wasn't too different, and I took the lack of camo with stride, but I also knew that I couldn't do my usual eye-darting madness at the table.

Most of you know this, but for those who don't, the reason why I wear sunglasses at the table is not because I don't want people picking up my eye tells. It's not like I blink twice whenever I get a pocket pair. It is actually to hide my eyes so players don't realize that I'm carefully watching them. I'll turn my head forward, but my eyes are straining all the way to the right trying to catch a glimpse of how you throw the chips into the pot. I don't want to be staring right at you because then you know I am paying attention and you could get cute with me and throw in fake tells or overact. I want you comfortable and seemingly anonymous as you make your actions. Also, I have glaucoma, or at least that's what I tell the players stupid enough to ask why I'm wearing glasses.

So, without the cover of sunglasses, I had to just let my eyes dart out in the open. I'll sometimes lean back in my chair as well, so that I am not where players expect me to be when I'm watching them. This really only works when I'm not in the hand. You can get your best info when you are out of a hand.

It was an interesting table when I first sat down. There was definitely a mix of gamblers and rocks, with a decent amount of solid players. In my second hand, I was dealt AKo UTG, a tough position with that hand, made even tougher by the fact that I had no reads on the table yet. I raised to $15 in order to thin the herd, but in hindsight, I probably should've limped. Whatever the case, I got three callers, including a call from the SB, a female player who was channeling Phil Ivey. Femme Ivey was a coffee-with-creme skinned black or mulato girl with her curly hair bulled back. She wore a grey fleece and had thin fingers with short fingernails (she was two seats to my right, so her hands were the easiest things to watch. Aside from her pretty face, you'd think she was a guy. She barely talked, not once during a hand, but when she did chat between hands, it was clear that she was confident and intelligent. Out of everyone, all males except for Femme Ivey, it was Femme that instantly intimidated me the most. Mind you, it wasn't intimidation that would throw me off my game; rather, it was intimidation that would heighten my senses and make me especially cautious against her.

The flop came down KJ9. Ostensibly, that's a decent flop. I have top pair top kicker, but there is a possible straight, and with all those highcards, I thought two-pair would be a possibility also. Whatever the case, I didn't know the table, so after Femme Ivey checked to me, I bet $50, less than the pot. One player, a round-faced Asian guy in his early twenties wearing a hoodie and believing with all his might that he was a shark (more accurately, he was a big fish), called me. Femme Ivey then raised to $150 total ($100 on top). When it got back to me, I had to really think this through. I tried to figure out if she could possibly be check-raise bluffing me. The $100 on top was a tall order, without reference to the pot of course, and she may have thought that I would fold since I only sat with $300 total, the maximum buy-in. Also, she could have put me on a lesser pair making a continuation bet. Still, I couldn't comfortably buy that argument. She was out of position, and facing a confident raiser and a caller. Ultimately, I envisioned her holding KJ for two pair. I wasn't going to go out like that. I folded, as did the Hooded Asian.

Later, when she pulled that move on another player or three, I leaned past the guy on my right and said to Femme Ivey, "I swear, you are like Carbon Monoxide." She looked at my quizzically, so I continued, "the silent killa." Yeah, I'm a dork.

I was definitely bummed about being down $65 so quickly, but I remembered that it was all a matter of playing smart and the money would eventually come back to me. An orbit or so later, I'm in the SB when I'm dealt...AQo. By the time the action got to me, there was a straddle for $5 and about 5 callers. I considered raising to push all those $5 off of their hands, but ultimately, I did not want a call and be out of position with AQo, the Fickle Bitch. The flop came down AQ2, and I checked, expecting one of the many limpers to have an Ace and therefore bet out. It checked around. The turn was a 7. This time, I decided that I had to bet and threw a handful of redbirds ($5 chips) into the pot, for a total of $35. I had hoped that it looked like an out of position bluff because of the fact that the flop was checked down. To my delight, the player on my immediate left decided to push all-in for his remaining $76 or so, total. It folded around to me and I called. The river was a blank. Before I showed my cards, a squib (a personal term for someone who I do not like for no discernible reason) on my immediate right called out "AQ?" I tabled my hand, "Nice call," I replied to the squib. Sure, he read me correctly, but calling out my hand like that actually fired me up even more. I made it a goal to get under his skin later. Meanwhile, the player on my left who was all-in showed A7. I guess it is good that I checked the flop. Oh, and yes, AQ paid out. Thanks, you cheeky whore.

I'll just quickly mention that I got AQ about 4 times yesterday. This was the only win. (No, I'm not complaining. I just wanted to explain why I bitched and moaned about AQ following me everywhere, and then mention only one AQ hand that I won).

Sadly, not every poker story can be filled with my genius. There will inevitably be days when I don't win, and I've come to accept that unescapable fact. Following the AQ hand, I was a little above even. Over the course of several orbits, I ended up down about $50-60. A player in the 10s (I was in the 7s) was particularly playing well, with well over $1000 in front of him. I'd seen his type many times before. He was slightly overweight, dressed comfortably, but not sloppily, wearing an army green baseball cap and sporting a full beard. He was a young guy, definitely in his 20s, but he had an aire of confidence that is an absolutely necessary thing to have at the table. I had been re-raised off a bunch of hands, and one hand in particular saw that guy, we'll call him Army Cap, raising my $30 continuation bet in a move that could only be designed to push me off of the pot. Sadly, I held AQ, and the KTx board scared me enough to fold.

So it was with this knowledge, that I bet out to $15 from EP with 77. In hindsight, I'm not so sure that it was a smart raise. On one hand, I wanted to narrow the field and then bet out on a ragged flop when I would only be called by one or two players with overcards. On the other, I probably should've limped and played for set value out of position. Alas, I bet, and I got three callers. The flop was J36 with two hearts. That wasn't too bad for me. I really only feared someone flopping the Jack, or possibly someone with a small overpair like 88 or 99, because otherwise, I believe TT-AA would probably raise me preflop. I bet out $30, and Army Cap raised me to $90. It folded to me and I had a decent amount of chips behind me. I decided to push all-in. At the time, the thought was that I figured he was playing the player. He had seen me fold to him and other players to re-raises on my continuation bets. If he was on a Jack, maybe I could push him off. After all, this was the first time I had pushed all-in, which often is a sign of supreme confidence. But really, I just played stupid. He called and by the river he showed his two pair, 36c. He then said to the table, a couple of whom were obviously oblivious to strategy beyond Bet Good Cards, that "That is the reason why you call with 36c." He wasn't being a dick, and his comment didn't bother me. Truth be told, I was in decent shape when we were all-in. If the Jack paired or the turn and river paired eachother, then I'd have a better two pair. But still, stupid play. I was stacked.

I immediately rebought for $300 more. The Squib on my left was licking his chops. Earlier he commented, after winning a big all-in bluff, that he was still stuck several hundred. That actually pleased me a bit. He was a normal looking guy with brown hair and scattered stubble on his plain, slightly hick-ish looking face. He wore a long-sleeved collared t-shirt thing (like a rugby shirt) with broad stripes. He just had an aire of arrogance around him that I immediately sensed.

In one hand, I held KTo, and decided to limp on the button along with 5 or so other players. The flop was Ace-high and we call checked. The turn was a Ten. A new guy to my immediate left bet $10. He got a bunch of callers, myself included. The river was a blank. It checked around, and all of the other players held their cards tight. I was on the button, so there was no way I'm showing first. Proper rules has the players show in order from the SB on. The dealer got impatient and said, "Come on guys. Show the winner." Slowly, the players showed their hands. One player paired a duece. Another had K3o for nothing. Another player had 33. Once I had seen them all, I said, "My tens are good?" I tabled my hand. The chips were pushed my direction and the Squib, who was out of the hand, decided to chime in. "Wow, first you slowplay the Ten, then you slowroll?" This piqued my interest. Notably, he wasn't even in the hand. I turned to him slightly. "First off, I don't slowroll. Second, who is slowplaying? There is a ten out there." I don't know why I was justifying my play. He replied, "Yeah, but you are stuck a couple of hundred. This was my openning. Eariler in the night, when the Hooded Asian and his two goofy whiteboy sidekicks were stacked three in a row, he wouldn't stop saying, "They're all going to tilt now." Meanwhile, I was thinking, and finally said, "Shut up. If they hear they are tilting, they are going to get control of themselves." Now, the Squib was telling me that I should've bet out with middle pair because I was stuck a few hundred. "Actually," I replied, "betting more because you are stuck is called tilting. I don't make my money tilting." It sounded better in person. In text, it just seems ghey. But I was basically putting him back in his place. Little bitch.

I was eventually down to about $240 or so, and I started feeling the crunch of being stuck. I decided that I was leaving at 9pm no matter what. I was also going to keep playing smart and wait for my opportunity to win my money back. It was all a matter of time.

I was dealt KQc in EP, and decided to limp. By then, the table became a lot more limp-friendly. There was an older man with a tattered t-shirt, wild white hair and a scruffy face sitting in the 9s. He played tight, mostly, and raised to $12. The Hooded Asian called, still tilting from eariler losses, and I called as well. The flop was a gorgeous Jx9c8c. I had an inside straight draw and the second-nut flush draw. I checked. The old man bet $25 and the Hooded Asian called. I called as well. The turn was a Ts. I had the nut straight. Of course, I checked. Let them do the betting for me. The old man bet $45 and the Hooded Asian called. I looked at my stack, $168 total, and pushed all-in. The old man asked how much, and the dealer told him $168. I could tell that I would have to induce the call. I've said this many times before, but excuse me for repeating myself. When you want a call like this, your best strategy is to keep quiet...until it is clear that your opponent is going to fold. Then, start talking. Do anything. You can't negatively affect the outcome, but you may be able to talk them into calling. More often than not, players see chattiness as a sign that you are playing mind games because you don't have the goods. A smart player will catch on and know that talking (especially when someone appears comfortable while they chat) is a sign of a good hand, but that is why I start quiet and then get chatty when it looks like my opponent needs encouragement to call. I interrupted, "Actually its only $123 more." The dealer was actually rude, "Yeah, but its $168 total." "Sure," I replied, "but I'm trying to induce the call." There it was, announcing my intentions. Remember my tip from earlier this week. For whatever reason, people are more likely to tell the truth at the table than they are to show it through their actions. I was announcing my freaking strategy. The old man folded though, and I turned my attention onto the Hooded Asian. "Come on, man. It's only another $123 more. Double me up." "I call." (Sweet!). The river was an offsuit King. I showed my nut former straight, now the second nut straight. He folded and said "Damn." I was making strides back to even.

From there, I just had fun. The Hooded Asian and his two whiteboy cronies were tilting, but they were just kids and fun to have around. I buddied up to the guy on my immediate left because I had seen him around and knew he was a good player. It's better to be friends with good players. I had some fun, raising to $4 total (min raise) with ATo. The redheaded sidekick called along with a chubby, nerdy new player. The flop was Ten-high. It checked to me and I bet out $4, a paltry sum. Only the red-headed sidekick called. The turn was a blank, or at least its a blank to me now. I bet out $10, another paltry sum. He tossed in the chips without a care. The river was another blank. Hell, maybe the turn or river was an overcard to my Ten. I just don't remember. He checked and I bet $35. "Sorry man, you checked too much." He called and when I showed the AT, he mucked. This was just me goofing around and slowly building a pot.

There wasn't much else happening. I had fun chatting with the table, but I started to feel hunger pains. When 9pm rolled around, a new dealer took the box. This one was a chick, and while she was a solid 6.5 out of 10, she paled in comparison to the female weekend dealer with those oh so fluffy dirty pillows. Still, when she sat, I wanted to finish the 3 hands left in the orbit, and I asked her how that worked. I had seen players not pay time ($5 per half hour) and play a hand or two before walking. I asked her if I could finish my orbit. She looked at me with a funny smile. "Orbit?" "Yeah, I just want to play the next few hands." "Orbit?" I guess she never heard the term before. To me it is standard terminology. Each time that the button goes around the table is an orbit. I wanted to play until I was the BB. We joked a bit as she explained that it was a weird word. Okay, lady, but if I smile and play along, will you let me play some more hands for free. The house rule is that you get one free hand, but she gave me the full three. "Enjoy your orbit."

The first hand she deals me, I am in MP and get KK, my best hand of the night. Hallelujah! or Damnation! I'm not sure which, yet. I bet out $12, one of my smaller bets of the evening, and only get one caller, the red-headed sidekick. He was still steaming when his JJ flopped a set against another player with AA. When they got into a betting war, Red-Head got all-in, only to lose to a turned Ace, set over set. He was amazingly pissed and shocked. I just found it funny.

So, he's on tilt. Fine. He has been the entire night. So, I have KK and I get a shitty flop, Ax6s7s. What to do? I check. I don't want to lose money right before I leave. He bets $20. Okay, I'm willing to lose $20. The turn was an 8s. This hand was just getting worse. I didn't have a spade either. I checked, and he sheepishly checked. It was then that I knew he didn't have the Ace. The river was a blank and I bet $35. He called, and growned when I showed my KK. Immediatley after, his friend, a white Sanjaya (I kid you not), said, "If he bet $50, you would've folded." "Hell no!" First, I wanted to reinforce the Red-Headed kid's bad play (not like I played the hand so great). Second, I disagreed sincerely. If he bets $50 on the flop, I would have called easier or raised. $20 wants to be called, $50 does not. Him and his buddies all started to ask how that could possibly be, and I got rude, on a rush of adrenaline, "Dude, I'll teach you how to play after my two hands." It's then when the guy to my left said to me quietly, "Really? How can you call a $50 turn bet after the $20 flop bet?" Shit! I misheard them. I leaned over and apologized. "My bad, guys. I misunderstood. You are right. Shit, sorry about being such a prick." I meant it too, especially since I was leaving.

Two hands later I racked up and was down $53 for the night, after tipping the dealer $3 for letting me play a few extra hands. Not bad,, as I was stuck $400 at my lowest point. I had tinges of self doubt when I was down, but I shook them off quickly. I knew that I had the skills and bad competition to win it all back. I'm confident that if I stayed longer, I would've gotten to even and thensome, but its all just one long session.

When I left, I strolled over to Brgr, a burger place around the corner. I thought wifey Kim's friend Michelle recommended the shakes, so I ordered a burger, fries and shake. On the way home in a cab, while drinking my shake, I called Michelle to thank her recommendation. She didn't know what I was talking about. Smooth, Jordan. I must've hallucinated the good review.

Another day, another dollar. Down $50, but feeling fine. The plan is to play in the EBB Team game next week. It's $330 total for the three-player team. Right now, its me and Matty Ebs, but he's going to find us a third. It should be interesting. Meanwhile, 23Skiddoo may be in town on Thursday, so that's two nights of poker in a row. Giddy-up!

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 9:13 AM, ,

Delicious Chips

Hey all. Not much going on in Casa del High. I had a nice evening last night meeting up with good pals Platinum and Johnny Ads. These two aren't pokerphiliacs like us, and I've noticed that the routine of life and the use of poker as the ultimate passtime has limited my social interaction with the outside world. No, I'm not quite a hermit, but when I have a free night, I'll be at the local cardroom or playing online at a Battle of the Blogger Tournament game. (Side note: It is rather impressive how the BBT re-energized my and many players' interests in the weekly blogger tournaments. Kudos to its organizers.)

Wifey Kim was planning on having dinner with a college friend yesterday, and I found myself in the same spot I face on a weekly basis. I could go play poker live at the NiceLook (1/2 NL cash) or Salami ($60 tournament) clubs, go home and play the Mookie (which would actually start after wifey Kim got home) or find something else. Normally, I'm one to grab the opportunity for poker, but I didn't feel like it yesteday. My online account has dwindled since my Big Game loss, and I didn't have my poker gear at the office, so a trip to the cardroom would involve a couple of subway trips (I didn't even have enough money in my ATM to bring my usual 2 buy-ins).

With that in mind, I did something different. I called Platinum and Ads and we met for drinks, dinner and more drinks. And I couldn't have had a better night. Poker can be all consuming, and its refreshing to take a mental break every once in a while. Meanwhile, I spent the evening not thinking about the poker club a scant 5 blocks away or the many poker stories saved in my head, which would undoubtedly only bore my dinner companions. Or at least I spent the evening trying not to think of these things.

When I got home, a bit drunk, wifey Kim was there to greet me. Poker seemed to call my name, but I ignored that beyotch and settled on the couch next to my lovely wife.

Tonight, I make my return to NiceLook. Sure, a day off is nice, but I'm itching to get back in there, especially since I won in probably 90% of my live game sessions this year. In the last three trips, I've taken down scores of about $800, $120 and $340, not bad for a 1/2 NL player. I prepped for work this morning slowly and painstakingly, as I was nursing a killer hangover and doing my best to avoid wifey Kim in a polite way. She was chipper from sleeping late (for her) whereas I was grumpy from waking up early (for me). Once I was in my monkey suit (I have a client meeting this morning and a deposition later today), I grabbed my backpack and filled it up with my poker gear. This time, I'm going to NiceLook straight from work, and while I considered playing in my suit, I like to be comfortable at the table. Instead, I'll be wearing my Flash t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, a big step up from the ole suit. I couldn't find my new elephant card cap so I grabbed the red and gold buddha. Part of me feels this is a bad omen, but an even larger part of me doesn't care. After all, if buddha is the reason why I lose, then I've got some serious problems.

I received an interesting email from the Extra Big Bet club, a club I've only visited seriously on one occassion. I guess NiceLook must be taking all of their players, because each email I get from EBB seems more and more desperate. The recent one included a pathetic call for more players, along with something that seemed kinda interesting. EBB will be holding a team tournament, where 10 teams of 3 players each will compete for an as yet unnamed buy-in. Each player will sit in a 10-person SNG, and the winners of the SNGs will be awarded points. The team with the highest points wins.

Team poker is an interesting concept, and I guess this just goes to show that competition, in this case between illegal underground card clubs, really does spur a wider variety of products and services. I still need to know the buy-in, but if its agreeable, I'll be playing with Matty Ebs and another player we have yet to choose. Mikey Aps might be our man. He can be a real asshole at the table, but that could work to our advantage, especially since he won't be at our table. But if anyone else is interested, feel free to drop a comment. No promises, but I wouldn't mind certain people on my team (SoxLover for instance).

Oh, and the title to this post is my new self-proclaimed poker nickname. After seeing a funny post by Dawn about the worst poker nickname (apparently, some dude is known as The Donator) and seeing Dawn's nickname, Crackmaster, I've decided I need my own. Jordan "Delicious Chips." Smoothhhhhhhhhhhhhhh............

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 9:49 AM, ,

I Heart Western New York (Buffalo/Niagara Trip Report)

I love Buffalo. I mean, really love it. In another world, I'd be living there, but alas, I am in NYC, the Center of It All, and the thought of leaving the Big Leagues of Everything (we are, after all, a world capital of finance, art, theatre, law, fashion, jewelry, and business, to name a few) to move to NY's most depressed (economically) city is hardly a smart move. Still, when I left college in Buffalo, when I was offered a job working for a Buffalo law firm after a mediation competition held at my alma mater, and after visiting this last week, I can't help but picture my life in Buffalo. Ideally, wifey Kim and I could afford a nice house in a good neighborhood. We can enjoy all of our favorite restaurants from our college days, and discover new ones throughout the city. We can work in an environment that stresses family life over work life. And we can enjoy the people, who may be wearing head-to-toe Buffalo Sabres sweats at the supermarket, but are also invariably kind. Sadly, all that is not meant to be. My roots are in NYC, but at least I have branches in Buffalo.

When wifey Kim first told me of her speech pathology convention in Buffalo, I heard opportunity knocking. I had been itching to visit Buffalo again, and I had heard that, since my graduation, two new casinos had openned up. When I was a student, the only casino was Casino Niagara, a Canadian casino just over the border. It didn't have poker, but that was before the poker boom. Even so, with little money to my name, we would make monthly jaunts to gamble on roulette or try our best to beat blackjack. Whenever I was up $100, I'd always think, "I should lock up this win," then think, "Wait, this is Canadian money! I need to win more to get an even $100 USD." Then I'd proceed to give it all back.

But remember, that was before my poker days, and before Buffalo's poker days. From what I heard, there was now a second Candadian casino and the US finally got wise to the fact that American money was gambled away to our retarded brother up north. Hence, the Seneca Niagara Casino was born, a casino owned by Americans (American Indians) on the American side of Niagara Falls. Poker rooms popped up in all of the casinos, and we had ourselves a perfect poker storm. I just thank god that it wasn't there when I was going to school. At least I went to some classes.

The first day and a half in Buffalo were fantastic. It seemed that most of our agenda involved visiting old food haunts, and Wednesday night, after checking in, we immediately went for some Mexican food. Thursday morning involved our favorite greasy spoon diner, a jaunt around campus, and a late lunch at Duff's the best wings on the planet. Sadly, as delicious as Duff's is, it is also usually an intestinal wrecking ball, so dinner was skipped altogether.

On Friday, wifey Kim and I got up early to grab some grub. After breakfast, we decided on our day. Wifey Kim was going to a 1:30-4:30 class, and once I dropped her off (I was driving a sporty PT Cruiser, cause thats how I roll), I was headed to the NY casino to play my first poker ever in Western New York. Wifey Kim was kind enough to suggest that I drop her off early to get more game time in. I took the offer, and after changing into my poker uniform (say it with me now, black dollar-sign Superman shirt, cargo pants with a slew of pockets, baseball cap, hooded sweatshirt, new elephant card cap, sunglasses, and iPod), I dropped wifey Kim off at her destination and started the 30 minute drive to the casino.

God bless GP-systems. I didn't remember everything in Buffalo, and I sure as hell never went to the posh hotel where wifey Kim's convention took place when I was but a young student. The casino was new, so that was going to be a tricky ride for me too. GP made it easy and even told me the exact minute when I should expect to arrive at my destination. Let me tell you, when you can shave off a minute, that's a fine feeling. I have a casino speed that I automatically walk at when I enter a casino, and its somewhat true of the driving as well. Add a time limit to the play, and I was able to shave a whole 2 minutes from my less-than-30 minute drive!

The NY casino certainly looked nice. It's a tall building in the middle of a semi-urban area that really feels depressed, like an industrial city gone to dirt (which I expect it was). There are remnants of the tourism heydays, but most of the strong touristy stuff (not good, but strong as in established and likely to last in reasonable condition) are on the Canadian side. But that tall casino/hotel with bright-colored lights changing on its exterior looks like a gambler's oasis in the den of dead commerce. Parking, to my delight, was free, and once I found the entrance, I moved swifty to the casino floor.

In Buffalo/Niagara (including Canadian casinos), you cannot step onto the casino floor without going through velvet ropes where a guard inspects your ID. I handed him my ID and asked about the poker room. He pointed down a long hallway, separate from the ding of slot machines and the -EV table games. For this reason, I never did quite enter the casino-proper. Rather, I made my way down the hall and got ready for some poker action.

When I got to the poker room and showed my ID, I reviewed the list of available games. I'm pretty much a NL guy when it comes to live cash games, largely because of the opportunity to make good money. There is certainly more at risk and you can felt yourself with one hand, but it works both ways, and I've found that more likely than not, when all the chips are on the line, I have the best of it. The options were 1/2 NL with a 100 max buy-in and 2/5 NL with a 400-max. I thought about the 1/2, but those were some mighty short stacks for live poker, and would likely dissolve quickly into a push-monkey contest. I'm not against playing that style of poker (or player), but I'd rather have more room to maneuver. In Atlantic City, I'm much more used to the 1/2, 300-max tables, so I considered taking my $700+ bankroll (all I brought with me for this trip) and trying out 2/5, 400-max. I put my name on both lists and within 5 minutes, was called to the 2/5 table.

This was my first time playing 2/5 NL, but the way I saw it, it couldn't be too different from 1/2. Sure, you can expect a certain better caliber of player, but there are donkeys at every level, and this was 2/5, not 100/200 NL.

When I sat down, it didn't take me long to realize that I was playing with a bunch of regulars. Players shared tasteless jokes back and forth, none worth remembering, and referred to each other by name. It was a chummy group, but I felt every bit the outsider as I grabbed my seat and prepped by sporting all of my accoutrements. I tried to add my 2 cents on certain conversations as a way of getting a rapport with the table.

Early on, it became clear that the 40-year-old burly guy with a goatie and pony-tail would be the loose donkey of the group. He looked like a real shlub and was sending out more signals than a cat in heat. He was playing most hands and raising with seeming reckless abandon. His main play was to check-raise all preflop and it worked to his benefit at least a half-dozen times at the table. When he did reach showdown, his cards were rarely exceptional. Later on, a Sopranos-wannabe joined him on his left. The Sopranos-wannabe was an early 30s Italian with thinning slicked-back/spikey hair, wearing a tracksuit opened to expose his gold cross and white tanktop. He was mark #2.

I also noticed pretty quickly that players did not know how to use their straddle. They would straddle, get a bunch of callers and then check. This is how NOT to straddle. Instead, if you are playing against a straddler, you want to raise more often than not, because the straddler is essentially going to be out of position for the rest of the hand (assuming you are not a blind) and also likely has crap cards that can't call a raise. If you are the straddler and you get some limpers, the optimal move is to raise more often than not, because the limpers probably put you on crappy cards, and part of the reason to straddle in the first place is to gain position preflop. By checking, you are just wasting that position you blindly paid $10 for.

Seeing this, I decided to raise to $50 after the pony-tail guy, we'll call him D-Bag, straddled and got several callers. I figured from the fact that I was an unknown entity, I could get away with some tomfoolery early. I only had KTs, but that was a decent hand against the blind straddle, and I hoped that the big bet would scare the others away, since they were merely limpers. I was wrong. I got 4 callers, and the table livened up. Apparently, this was the biggest preflop pot in a long while, and I would find out why they were so eager to call me later on in the day. The flop was Ace-high, and by the time it got to me, a player had bet $100 or more into the pot. I stared at the board and folded, my imaginary KK going up in flames. See, in hands like this, I like to imagine what hand doesn't suck (i.e., is worthy of a preflop raise to $50) but would fold to this action. KK or QQ would do, since the many callers and the Ace-high flop would be a good indication that a bare Ace had taken the lead. So, I mentally picture KK in my hand and act accordingly. I was just glad for the Ace-high flop, which allowed me to fold and save face.

I played on until I was down $100 from my initial $400 buy-in, and then rebought in for another $100, topping myself off. I was getting into the flow of the table, and two seats to my right was an older clean-cut gentlemen, late 40s to early/mid 50s, with white hair, a baseball cap and a whole lot of chatter. He was a jokester, yucking it up at the table. I could tell that he was sorta gunning for me, something I would also learn more about later, and every once in a while, he would stab a comment in my direction, either encouraging my fold in a passive-aggressive jerkoff way, or making some veiled half-insult under the guise of humor, like "I'm waiting for your elephant to run over the table" in reference to my elephant card cap, or "Looks like your elephant is about to lay a crap." Classy! We'll call him Chummy, just for the hell of it.

I couldn't wait to use this gentleman's attitude to my advantage. For the most part, I was keeping quiet and mostly tried to stay out of the way while I took the table's temperature. Aside from the silly $50 straddle raise, I had been largely quiet. I finally got a good hand, JJ, when the D-Bag straddled once again. This time, he only got two callers before it got to me, including Chummy. Chummy had been spewing chips slowly, mostly to loose calls and whatnot. He was a smart player, though, and on at least one occasion laid nice traps, only to suffer a suckout. I could tell he was on semi-tilt.

With JJ, I decided to raise to $50 once again, hoping to encourage players to remember the last time I tried this ploy in the exact same position. I received two callers this time, the D-Bag who would call with any two cards, and Chummy, likely because he wanted to take this hand from me. The flop was 962, with two hearts. I liked my hand. It checked to me in LP and I decided to bet $100 into the pot. D-Bag shuffled his two cards (a telltale sign of weakness) and folded. Chummy thought about it for a while. I looked at his remaining stack of about $265. I had him covered, and if he was calling the $100 bet, I wanted to get his last $165 in the pot as well. I decided to try to reel him in. "Just fold and nobody gets hurt." He perked up and looked in my direction. Trying to sound tough, he replied, "$100 won't hurt me either way." I decided to flip the script and make him feel as big and powerful as he wanted so desperately to be. "Actually," my voice went a bit quieter, "I was talking about me." He needed more time to think. Meanwhile, a guy in the 10s (I was in the 8s) returned to his seat and asked, "Is this hand still going?" "Not for long," I replied, once again flipping the switch and making my comments seem threatening. To my delight, Chummy chirped up, looked at me with a hint of desperation behind his eyes, and said, "You are going to call?" "Wha?," I asked back. I had no idea what he was talking about. "Did you just say you were going to call if I went all-in?" I leveled with him, "Um, no. This guy asked if this hand was still going on and I said 'Not for long' one way or the other." He saw this as his opening, "All-in!" "I call." My response was so quick and so in opposition to what he thought he heard in my voice from that last interchange that it appeared as though his heart broke right there. The turn was another 6 and the river was a Queen. I was mildly worried about the suckout, but I tabled my JJ and Chummy could only look at his cards before sadly mucking them. Take that, motherfucker! I'm the king of the mindfuck now!

I should have made him show first. Whatever the case, this hand just goes to show that it really is about waiting for your opponents to make a mistake in NLHE. That mistake can cost them (or you) an entire stack, and from my recent experiences, its usually hands like this, one or two a session, that make up the entirety of my profit.

A little while later, I saw a relatively tight old man lose a hand to runner runner flush. I was playing very tight, and felt like I could take a swing at a pot, so I raised to $15 from MP/LP with QTo. That old guy called, and the flop came down with nothing of any use. I believe there was an Ace out, though, so when the old guy checked, I bet $30. He called, and announced, "I'm calling you on tilt." Sometimes that's just a cute statement, and other times, it's actually a ploy to fool you into betting into a strong hand, but most often, when people speak at a poker table, they are telling the truth. I know it sounds odd, but actions and speaking are two different things. For some reason, a player who is "smart" enough to sign and look depressed when they flopped the nuts is too "honest" to lie when they speak aloud. I think it is our natural impulse to be honest. Whatever the case, I saw his "tilt" comment as earnest and when the turn came down, I bet out $60. He folded, and I said, "I was hoping you were going to tilt-call again." Okay, so not everyone is honest when they talk at a poker table.

A long while later, I'm dealt AxQh. AQ has been a real pain in the ass lately, and I'm re-learning how to fold it. However, facing a straddle and sitting in MP, I decide to raise to $40. I only get one caller, the Goomba in a track suit with the gold cross and exposed wifebeater. Class! He is in late position, but generally is a loose preflop caller. The flop is 345, all hearts. I'm first to act, so I do what I do and bet $80, hoping to show strength and win the pot immediately. He flat calls fairly quickly. This does not outright concern me. He could be on the flush draw, or he could have a minor overpair, but I doubt he has anything very strong. Otherwise, he would raise me. I know this because he's been doing it to me all day. More often than not, I fold, because it is usual to minor $15 preflop raises, and I don't need to get into those hands without good cards against such a maniac. However, I still AM concerned because all I have is Ace-high. The turn is an offsuit Queen, giving me top pair, top kicker, with the loser's end of an inside straight draw and a draw to the third-nut flush. I think it over and decide that I am likely ahead to 99 or something similar. If he is ahead, its likely to the straight (yes, I thought he may've called with 67, or to a small flush). I figured that in those instances, I have the draw to a superior flush as well, although I seriously did not see him as having the flush. I think this is where I moved all-in for about $300+ more. It was a ballsy move, but I thought that the Queen turn gave me the lead and I didn't want him drawing out on me. He folded and said that I must be protecting something big to bet like that. "Yep, I'm protecting the winning hand." It's all the info I would give him.

Those were the significant hands that I played. The rest was a lot of folding or a preflop raise folding to a flop. While I was sitting there, a player took over the 10s. He was a younger guy, 30 at most, wearing a dress shirt with a fancy pen in the breast pocket and slacks. If I was in NY, I would think him some low-level marketing croney but in Buffalo, he had an even more professional aire. He also acted like a douschebag frat boy, and liked to cackle-laugh at his silly quips and obnoxious table chat. On three different occassions, I heard him verbally announce his cards to the other player in the hand and agree to check it down the whole way. At first, I thought it was an odd defensive play, but when he had AK and flopped the Ace and still checked it down, and when he had AK and the other guy had 99 and they both checked it down after the A and K missed the flop, well, it was clear that these guys were softplaying. It wasn't just the Cackling Frat Guy either. It seemed that a good amount of the 10 person table were willing to softplay each other once they were alone in a pot. It was so utterly blatant that I finally had to ask. I turned to the Frat Guy and asked him this:

"Hey man, you don't have to answer this if you don't want to, but I just have to ask. Why would you check it down with such a strong hand? Why are you giving him a chance to draw out on you?" He said he'd be open and honest. He also said that there was no money in the pot in reference to the most recent softplayed hand. "Yeah, but there could have been if you bet at it, or you could have protected yourself from being drawn out on." He got more honest with me when I confronted him with that reality. All the while he was mostly jovial. The entire table, including the Goomba all the way in the 3s were listening and joining in. "We are regulars (referring to himself and the other player in the last softplayed hand). I don't need to go after him. I can go after the non-regulars, like you." I soaked that in and fired back my next question: "Yeah, but you are leaving money on the table. I mean, do you play this for fun or for money?" "Aw, this isn't for money. This is all for fun. I don't want to lose. No one wants to lose. But its all for fun." My last reply ended the conversation, "Okay, I can see that then. If you aren't playing for rent money, then I guess I can see it. No offense to you or any of the guys, but I don't have a home casino, so I'm not used to the regular thing."

This conversation actually took place at around the 2 hour mark of my 3 hour session. Once I had this info, I knew a few things: (1) these players were gunning for me as one of the few non-regulars in the room, (2) these players now thought that I was playing to pay for rent based on my implications, (3) in multi-way pots, these players are going to be playing soft until I make a move, and (4) the whole table will start to get more aggressive because I have exposed their pussy-ass softplay for what it is. Sure enough, all four were correct. From there on out, if I was in a multiway pot (of which there were more than a few), I kept out of the way, knowing that the only time there would be action was if it came from me, at which point I would expect to be re-raised so the other regulars would get out of the way. I also noticed some looser action from the softplayers who heard our conversation. Likely, I exposed their shame and they were overcompensating, like the guy with the small shlong who tries extra hard to look like the playa. I also noticed that players were a bit more wary of me, likely because of my image as a wandering poker player making rent at the tables.

If nothing else, the game was a huge learning experience. I learned that under the right conditions, 2/5 is the exact same game as 1/2 NL. I learned how to take advantage of the regulars' mentality. I won $338, too, and gladly cashed out 30 minutes before I even had to just to lock in the win and change before meeting wifey Kim. As I got up from the table, the Frat Guy asked, "You're leaving?" I couldn't help but keep up the front. "Sorry, guys, I got a call about a deepstacked home game in Detroit and I got a long drive." I walked out of there like I was the shizznit, because frankly, with this group of clowns, I was.

I met up with wifey Kim at the hotel where her conference was taking place. As I waited in the parking lot, a college kid walked by with a blue hooded sweatshirt with bright white letters. Those were my fraternity letters and in wifey Kim and my jaunt through campus on Thursday, I looked for them everywhere to no avail. Here I was, though, in downtown Buffalo at some random hotel, and a fellow brother just walks by. I stepped out of the car, "Are you with ___ ____?" "Yeah," the kid seemed uncertain. "Me too." We got to talking. The fraternity was actually having their formal that night at the very same hotel. After we parted ways, I got a call from the one fraternity brother I still knew that was in college, a younger guy I met through my little brother (real little brother, not fraternity little brother). Wifey Kim and I were invited to the formal last minute, and after dinner at a nearby restaurant and a 1 for 3 loss against wifey Kim in air hockey, we strolled into the formal dressed informally. It was a pleasure seeing these kids all dressed up with their hot ass sorostitute dates. I didn't know most of them, but they knew me as a founding father. I made small talk, drank free booze and headed out before they started dinner. It was good to be back, and that coincidence made things even better.

The next day, wifey Kim and I headed to the local supermarket where they have the best subs around. We picked up two subs for the airplane ride. We were scheduled to fly out on Sunday, but due to inclement weather, we decided to leave a day early. When I left the sub section of the supermarket, a guy walked right in front of me, yelling across the aisle at someone else. There, right before my eyes, was Jim, a good friend and fraternity brother that I neglected to call on the trip. What another freakin' coincidence. We hung out by the butcher section and caught up. I felt a bit bad about not thinking to call him sooner, but I was just glad that somehow we bumped into each other anyway.

Wifey Kim and I made our way to the airport and eventually returned home. On the way to Buffalo, I told wifey Kim that I could really imagine living in Buffalo. She scoffed. On the way back, she confided that she had a great time and wished we could live in Buffalo. By then, I had changed my mind. After all, I don't want to become one of those silly ass poker room "regulars."

Quick unrelated topic. I bought my way into the Blogger Big Game last night. I had suffered a series of defeats in brief spurts of online poker during the day, and contemplated skipping the tournament altogether. Ultimately, however, I decided to play, and play I did. When we were down to the final 19, I was near the back of the pack, but I still had plenty of play left in me. I eventually got Lucko to call my all-in. He raise preflop from the button and I raised a little bit more than the minimum back at him, knowing full well that I was pot committed. I was hoping to get him to push back at me, and he obliged. At showdown, preflop, I held AA against Lucko's JTo. By the turn, he had made his straight. I immediately turned off FT and my Yahoo Messenger. It hurt, but I wasn't defeated. I accept that poker involves luck and I don't blame Lucko one bit for his play or his luck. When I started the tournament, I thought that if I donk out, I'm going to suffer a brutal poker hangover, that feeling I get the next day that says, "What were you thinking?!" I'm glad to say that I felt fine about 30 seconds after the tournament and well into today. I may have lost in an improbable way, but I played well, and that is all I can ask. I don't damn Lucko either. His play wasn't all that bad, and even if it was, I cannot control him and make him play the hand any differently.

Something for you to chew on, whether it be poker or your everyday life: You can only control one person in the world, and that person is You. Don't get wrapped up in what everyone else did wrong at the table or in your life. Focus on how you reacted to it, how you learned from it, and how you can handle it in the future to better yourself. Anything else is just a waste of time and energy.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 9:57 AM, ,