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You Decide #63 & #64

I took fourth out of a couple of hundred people in a $5 rebuy at Bodog a couple of days ago. It felt good to go deep in a tourney, and I attribute it largely to Every Hand Revealed, Gus Hansen's book. When I'm reading a book, any book, I become immersed in the writing. When I was reading a lot of the Dalai Lama's books a few years ago, I felt a sense of peace and patience with the world. When I read books by Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) or Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club), I felt like a scumbag or rebel. And as I read Hansen's book, I feel like a poker player. I'm willing to make unpopular plays if I think it is the right one. I'm willing to let my aggressive donkey flag fly because I recognize that what might seem like aggressive donkey play, when utilized correctly, is actually part of a sound tournament strategy.

I saved two hands from the tournament. Both are a bit questionable, so I thought I'd ask for your input. So, without further adieu,

You Decide #63

We are at a very loose table in a rebuy tournament. At least two or three of the players have demonstrated the all-in-on-every-playable-hand strategy. As a result, some players, myself included, have adopted the limp-with-pushable-hands approach. Basically, instead of raising, just limp-call the all-ins. I have 4860 in the BB with KQo. Blinds are 50/100.

Preflop, IceBuddy (3210) limps in MP for 100. KD, the SB with only 170, calls the 100. Lord only knows why he didn't push in his last 70.

We see a flop, AAK, rainbow. It's an odd flop. On one hand, the two Aces help, since it makes it less likely my opponent has an Ace. On the other hand, it is easily likely that a player at this table in MP limped with a strong Ace like AJ-AK hoping to trap call one of the LP pushmonkeys. Still, if I check, I give up control of the hand, and it is still a possibility that my opponent had a pocket pair under Kings or, frankly, any two drawing cards like suited connectors or suited high cards. It's not as though he raised. He just called preflop, so his range is huge. I decide to raise 280. I was doing this most of the tourney, choosing numbered bets that were slightly askew. Amazingly, the shortie, KD, folds, keeping his 70 for the next hand. Ice, though, calls.

The turn is a 3s, creating a Spade flush draw. The card seems harmless enough and my opponent has been passive. I once again cannot fold, in my estimation, since it gives up the hand pretty much outright, and I am not convinced that my opponent has an ace (incidentally, he needs an ace or KK exactly to be ahead). I decide to bet again, 480, as much of a blocker bet as anything, as the pot is now 860. He calls.

The river is an offsuit 5. This is a tricky one. He's been flat calling me the whole way. If I check, he bets, probably enough to push me out of the pot, as I have to seriously consider that the flat calls were with an Ace. If I bet large, I might be betting the worst hand. Ultimately, I decide to make another blocking bet, with the hope that if I am re-raised, I can assess the situation then. The pot is 1820, so I bet 860. I had already put 860 into the pot and had ~2400 left. So, I bet one third of my stack as a hybrid value bet if I were ahead and a probe/blocker bet if I were behind to a weak Ace. My opponent called. He had KTs and I took down the pot.

The results were good, but this was a weird hand. The fact that KD was essentially all-in actually played a factor in this hand, since I assumed that my flop bet would bet called by him, so I'd have to show my cards regardless of what IceBuddy did. My goal was to push Ice off of the hand, mostly to grab whatever I could without risk, but I failed in that endeavor. Were my bets too low for an online game? Did the blocking bets make sense in context? Should I have pulled out the big guns earlier just to take down a fairly significant pot?

You Decide #64

By the time this next hand happened, I was sitting on over 50k in chips, almost twice my nearest competitor at 27k, and more than three times the next nearest competitor with 16k. I was absolutely rocking the tourney and putting a lot of pressure on my table. Blinds were 300/600 with a 75 ante, making each pot worth 1,575 preflop with just the blinds/antes alone. That's about 10% or more of the majority of the players' stacks at the table, not that they saw much of those pots. I was definitely taking advantage of my big stack and apparent good luck (I didn't hit many showdowns, so my opponents must've assumed that I was just very fortunate to get so many good hands -- and a lucky player is much more scary than a skilled one).

In EP/MP, I raise to 1200 with A4s. This was a much smaller bet than usual, probably because I had been betting so much that I wanted it to appear suspicious. Most players folded and the BB ($14,300) called the 600.

The flop was KKQ, rainbow. I found myself in a similar, albeit different, situation as in the last hand. A paired board is ripe for bluffing, particularly when you are heads up and have a lucky image and chips to spare. The BB checked so I bet $1,600 into the $3,300 pot. Remember, I was winning lots of pots uncontested, so I wanted to look like I was value betting the pot. I figured he'd fold with anything less than a King, Queen, or significant pocket pair, and his min bet call preflop followed by a check led me to believe that he didn't have much of anything. The $1,600 bet was also worth more than 10% of his chips. Even so, he called.

The turn was another Queen, creating two pair on the board. As long as my opponent did not have a King or Queen, we were going to tie at best (if he had an Ace) or I was way ahead. Any lower pocket pairs he may have had were counterfeited. The BB checked to me again, so I decided to take advantage of the situation, betting $3,600 into the $6,500 pot. I figured that bet worked with my value betting story but would still push out any player without a King, Queen or Ace. He called again.

The river was another King. My opponent open pushed all-in for $7,800+. The pot was $13,700 before his push. I had already put 4,275 into the pot and I could definitely afford the $7,800, but did I want to call and, if I lose, create a new $30k stack while bringing myself below the $40k mark. Momentum and perception are huge things in poker and if I reached showdown and lost, my momentum would be destroyed. I might be able to survive a fold with image intact, though.

I considered my opponent's probable holdings. A King was my only fear, giving him quads on a deceptive full house board. This was a distinct possibility, though, as his check-calling could've been a slowplay throughout the hand until the very river, where he saw that the table had made a full house. His bet could be a con, suggesting that I call no matter what since we were both playing the board.

The alternative was that he was straight bluffing the river. He knew that we were going to chop and decided to at least try to steal the pot.

Both scenarios made sense, but in the end, I went with the assumption that a King was very unlikely, since he needed the case King, AND pushing with ATC on that river was a whole lot likely. I decided to call. At showdown, my opponent showed Q9o. He was ahead until the river and essentially slowplayed himself out of a pot. Even so, my play in that hand was pretty bad, if you consider what my opponent really had the whole way. Does my stack size make my loose-ish play ok, though? How could I have played this better?

Give me your two cents, if you have the time and inclination. I'm sure some of you will wonder why I'm raising with A4s in the second hand, and if that's' the case, I'd like to hear reasons why I shouldn't play that hand, given chip stacks. I'd also love to hear any critique on bet sizing, since that is something I've been focusing on during my games.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 10:47 PM, ,

Playing Slow

I received a comment to the last post that went somethin' like this:

"When you play poker, you shouldn't do it to escape from being depressed or having a really bad day. You start out on tilt -- playing emotionally, not rationally -- and you won't play your best. Likewise, if during a poker game, you lose a big hand or get sucked out on and feel yourself going on tilt, stand up & take a break until you feel calm later on. Fellow players will sense your mood & take advantage of it." -Flawless

Flawless has a point. When you aren't in the right emotional state of mind, poker can be a brutal way to seek therapy. I don't doubt that one bit. Likewise, if you suffer a bad beat or lose a big hand in a game, a break isn't a bad idea either. The sharks (and even minnows) can smell the blood and its often an uphill battle back to even.

But all that said, there will be times when you are not in your best state of mind but poker still must be played. It might be that you RSVP'ed for an event and you can't back out. Perhaps its a scheduled tournament (live or online) that you can't miss or already registered for. Maybe you are on vacation at a location where poker is available and you want to play some before returning to your pokerless state (I'm looking at your downstate NY...). What do you do in these situations?

I'll tell you what I did. I lost myself long enough to allow my mental and emotional clock to reset.

After leaving work last night, I still had a lot of time to kill before I attended an Upper East Side 1/2 NLHE game with a $5/half hour time charge. I decided that the first course of business was to get some sustenance. With time to kill, I opted for Jackson Hole, a burger place with the aire of a dive bar and tight quarters. I grabbed a seat at the counter while the illegal immigrant staff made two dozen burgers on the grill. I ordered a beer and a cheddar cheeseburger deluxe and read a magazine. It was relaxing raging solo. The pace is refreshing, and there are no expectations.

The burger, as always, was humongous and delicious. Among burgers in the city, Jackson Hole is definitely one of my top picks, albeit, not a top pick. The burgers are insanely large and fall apart as you eat them, but they also have the perfect red center I hope for in a juicy burger. The steak fries do the trick, even if it is impossible to finish the burger and fries without unbuttoning one's pants.

After eating, I strolled into the cold night air. It hasn't been too brutal in the city, but we are finally entering the land of 40 degree highs, and last night was fairly chilly. I took the walk over to the game's general location and then did what any intelligent person looking to hide from the cold in NYC would do; I looked for a Starbucks.

From my office alone, I can find about 5 Starbucks in a three block radius. It's absolutely insane. So, once at the general location of the game, I merely looked down the block in every direction for the familiar green sign...and there it was, a scant one block away. I entered the Starbucks, ordered my drink, and grabbed a seat for a good 30 minutes. And I read. That's it. I let the poker and the pressure fade away with a steady diet of distractions.

I finally got to the game a good 30 minutes early. Matty Ebs met me downstairs and I hung with him while he grabbed a slice of pizza. After we were done, we turned the corner and entered a narrow door leading to a narrower staircase. The first thing I felt when entering was a sharp pain in my calf. I looked down to see a ratty radiator cover that had fallen from the wall. I propped it up and Matty and I made the long walk up the rickety stairs to a small platform. Matty opened the door and we both squeezed in, as the door was only able to open a slight amount due to some obstacles on the other side.

Inside the apartment/poker room were two main rooms and a bathroom. The first main room is half-kitchen, half-living room. Instead of a couch, though, there was an orange felt poker table stuffed in the corner and a pile of chairs. The set up was not yet complete. A 52" flat screen TV made up the remainder of the decorations. The other room should've held a bed, but instead held a green felt poker table with a smaller TV wall-mounted behind the dealer.

In the main room, a cup was set up to collect the water leaking from a hole in the ceiling. It was not raining. A door opened to a rooftop, which was a nice extra for such a decrepit apartment. I could simultaneously see the potential in the apartment and the disaster that it had become. But with nothing better to do, I introduced myself to the hosts and grabbed a seat.

I probably hung out for 45 minutes before the game started. I hate waiting, but I was taking it easy, lightly reading an abandoned newspaper while watching the TV. Eventually, enough players arrived and I grabbed the 2 seat. It was in a corner and I stuffed my bad in there with me. I am notoriously careful about my bag. It has everything in it usually, although admittedly, when I play poker, I keep my poker wallet on me at all times.

The players were an interesting group. The first arrival was Dave, a middle-aged friendly guy who just got laid off from running some sorta electronic trading company, although I have no idea what that means. Other people arrived and varied from blue-collar-looking Italian guys to a quiet, tight lawyer-type kid who was also a friend of Matty's. Eventually a big guy showed up and instead of forcing him to squeeze into the 1 seat, I moved over, giving him the 2 seat. I didn't realize it until now, but as soon as he sat down, he began crushing the table. Que sera, though.

I didn't keep notes on hands, but I did recall a few. I realized fairly early that some of the players were going to be very transparent. I picked up a reliable tell on one of the hosts immediately. Other players didn't seem to care about keeping their shit tight. One guy kept lifting his cards high to his neighbor's benefit. I would've said something, but it didn't harm me once and I didn't want to be the table cop or even tip off the table about how seriously I was playing.

My first hand was a complete bluff. I held 34c on the button. I don't recall all of the action, but after it checked to me on the Q82 flop, I bet out $15. I got one caller, but he didn't seem too thrilled with the situation. He checked the 8 turn and I bet out $35. Before that point, no one had bet more than $20 (with no significant pots), so that was enough to scare him away. I was feeling good.

A little while later, I raised preflop to $7 with AA and everyone folded. LEMON! I got QQ several orbits later after the table had warmed up, though, so I raised preflop to $12 and got four callers. The flop was AKx, so I checked the flop and check-folded the turn. Naturally, a guy won the pot with A6o.

I made two slowplays that were probably poor plays in hindsight, even though one saved me money and the other would've ended in the same way regardless. It was a limping table and once I established that there were sufficient calling stations, I began limping with a wide range. With J8o in the SB and several limpers, I called a bet to $7 or $8 to see a flop: QT9, with two hearts. Having flopped the second-nuts, a Q-high straight, with a flush draw possible, I should've bet out immediately. As it were, I chose to check since I was in first position and I figured that the preflop bettor would continuation bet, if nothing else. Once he bet out, I was planning to check-raise. Of course, it checked around and we saw the turn, an offsuit Jack. Anyone with a King had me beat, so I checked, the guy on my immediate left bet $7, the guy on his immediate left raised to $32, and the guy on his immediate left called. Well, that was enough info for me, so I folded quickly, as did the $7 bettor. At showdown, the two players left showed K7o (raiser to $32) and KQo (the caller). In hindsight, I realized that the KQ guy, with top pair, second kicker, was not going to fold to a flop bet and would've taken the lead on the turn, so my passive play saved me money. But in reality, I should've taken control of the hand earlier when I made my hand on a draw-heavy board. (Side note: The same guy played a flopped set very passively earlier in the night, eventually announcing when he called my two-pair river bet, "Okay, I'll pay you off." Then he showed the set and I was awestruck. Regardless, that taught me that he wasn't the type of guy to bet good hands, and checking his top pair on the flop merely confirmed that read.)

In the other slowplay hand, I limped for $2 on the button with 37s. The flop came down 456 rainbow, so when it checked to me, I checked as well. I figured I was way ahead and aside from another straight card, I didn't have much to fear. Sure enough, the turn was an 8, giving any other 7 a straight as well. Admittedly, I was mildly pleased with the 8, since I feared someone slowplaying 78 at the loose preflop table, but at showdown, I learned that I let 76o catch up. Lemon!

I was down to around $130 or so from my $200 buy-in because of some of the aforementioned hands and missing some draws, and decided to straddle for $4 from UTG. I got something like 5 or 6 callers and when it got back to me, I raised $25 on top. Anyone want to guess my hand? AKd. I love this play. Oftentimes, people can't believe the huge raise from a straddle, and accordingly, I got two customers, including Matty Ebs (who rightly thought I had a premium hand, although he guessed the wrong one). The flop was AK3 and Matty led out by betting $75 immediately. I acted all defeated and said that if I called, I'd only have $35 or so left, so I pushed it all in. The other guy folded and Matty had no choice but to call. He had figured me for JJ or so, and thought that his push would force my fold. If I had JJ, he'd be right. As it were, I wasn't dropping my top two pair and he was drawing dead after the blank turn.

Up to $300, I played on until 10:30, when it was time for another $5/half hour time charge. It seemed like a good time to leave. I was down to $231 and didn't feel like giving 1/6 of my profit just to play another 30 minutes. Instead, I cashed out, made some pleasantries and hit the road.

It's a good game made slightly less good by the time charge. The game seems low-key enough, so I may begin playing a bit more regularly. The small profit is nothing too exciting, but a win is a win and the mental aspect of leaving with more money than I arrived with is worth more than the actual $31.

Tonight I head to the movies to see Twilight with wifey Kim. The choice of movie is all wifey Kim, but its a vast improvement over a crappy rom-com like 27 Dresses or Made of Honor, so I'm actually very pleased with her choice. Tomorrow we are heading to my family's house for the holidays. Wifey Kim's family will be there too, which is awesome as both families get along and it saves us the hastle of choosing one over another. But where's the poker in all this? Hell if I know. That's got to change.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 9:56 AM, ,


From Schaubs' recent post:

But man poker has got me all fucked up. I just don’t have a positive feeling heading into games right now. This is where my head is at these days. It’s in the wrong frame of mind and I can’t do much about it, except take a break. So it’s on.

I feel ya, Schaubs.

In about three hours, I'll be attending a new hybrid home game/underground poker room (i.e., a home game with a rake) after receiving an invite from Matty Ebs, and all I can think about is that I don't feel right. I'm just not in the right mindset and it's something I need to address sooner rather than later.

Remember two of my favorite sayings, "Winning begets winning" and "Losing begets losing"? Well, there can be little doubt that part of those phenomenoms is attributable to one's mindset. When you mentally believe that you can't win, you will find a way to lose, and when you feel confident, other players will react by folding to you more often or avoiding pots with you altogether leaving you with fewer post-flop opponents.

Mindset is a huge element in the game of poker, so my losing mindset has got to go. I know its origins, largely due to the fact that I have been playing break-even poker since probably April, if not sooner. It's ugly. At least I'm not losing, although I still feel like a loser.

Shake it off, though. That's all I can do (aside from following Schaubs' smart plan and take a break). With Vegas and AC in December and a homegame tonight, though, I need to shake this shit off fast. So, let's go through the ways to shake off a mental funk:

1. Remember that poker is a long term game and in the long term, I'm still up 5 figures. I can remember that at one point, I didn't keep track of total wins/losses. Then I realized that I could very well be spending hours playing poker per week as a losing player. I won't have that, so I decided to keep track of my wins/losses as a gage to determine whether or not I should be playing poker. If I found that I was break even or losing, I'd have to re-evaluate my hobby.

Ironically, I also realized, for the first time, that I was a winning player. My win/loss sheet became more about reminding myself when times were lean that poker was not unbeatable or that I was not a donkey who had just gotten lucky in the past. I might not have the wins that some other players have, but I'm still a winner, and in a game where the score card is cold, hard cash, that's something to celebrate.

2. When in doubt, self delusion is always best! A long time ago, I read one of Doyle Brunson's books on poker. It was more of a story book, rather than a strategy book, and one story has stuck with me to this day. One player used to go into the bathroom before every session and talk to himself in the mirror: "You are going to win today. There is no other option. You are going to win. Because you are good. You are great." It sounds like a joke, in a way, but sometimes, when I need to get my head into that winning mindset, I'll do the same.

When I first realized that the key to getting laid was confidence, I learned how to fake confidence. When I faked confidence, people didn't know the difference and the results were positive, earning me real confidence. Now, self delusion might not be the ideal solution to all of life's problems, but for a lack of confidence, it can work just fine. So, the plan is to change my mindset by talking to myself. Hey, at least it's a plan.

3. Drown out the doubts with distractions. As a student, I used to bring my walkman to the big tests, like the SATs or finals. When all of the other students were quizzing each other beforehand (yes, I was in the nerd class), I would find a place to lose myself in the music. The distraction served to pacify me.

A great deal of my problem is anxiety. I'm anxious to play and I have a fear that I will lose. That anxiety fits right in to my hate for the wait. When I have to wait to play, it's as though my body builds up all of it's LAG-ness and I just spew chips as soon as I get cards. Well that shit don't fly today. On the walk over, I plan to listen to some chill tunes and lose myself in the music. I need to be relaxed when the game starts and overanalyzing won't help me one bit.

That's my three part game plan. The smarter one part game plan would be to skip the game, but damnit, it's poker.

If you have any other suggestions as to how to change one's mindset in anticipation of a game, let's hear 'em. I can use all the help I can get.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 5:07 PM, ,


This may be the pot calling the kettle black, but I really don't understand online casino players. A good lot of us online poker players have the (often delusional) belief that we can win this game on sheer skill alone, but the online casino players have no such reality-based delusions. If they think they can beat a slot machine, live or online, with anything resembling skill, they are either batshit crazy or completely in denial. But there is one reason to play either online poker or online casino games that is wholly legitimate, albeit in moderation: Entertainment. There is without a doubt something entertaining on betting your hard earned pesos on a spin of a wheel or the turn of a card, and if you can afford to pay, you can afford to play.

And that's where comes in. For those financially conscious among us (no, not you), Casino Top 10 offers free flash casino games directly online, including slots, blackjack, and my personal nemesis, Roulette. You can't beat the price and it's a fine time killer. It also isn't bad for newbies unfamiliar with some common casino games, although for my buck, I'd rather teach them poker, if for no other reason than increasing the pool of fishies. But, hey, if they want to learn that doubling your bet in Roulette each losing spin is not necessarily a good strategy, try out CasinoTop10, instead of losing hundreds of dollars like I did. Don't you judge me.

And if you think you can win at casino via skill, has some a casino strategy page for you. The page provides basic rules as well as more complicated strategies for a variety of games including, I shit you not, Bingo. To be frank, as soon as I'm done typing this, I'm going to read over that Bingo strategy one more time. After all, I'm stuck at low-stakes Bingo, so a little bit of studying might give me that big win I need to break into the higher stakes.

So, casino players, more power to you. You may just enjoy entertainment or you may be delusional, but either way, you're a gambler and that makes you my people.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 3:11 PM, ,

Consider the Source

I didn't have much for you today. I played in the Wall Street Game's two table tournament earlier this week, lasting until 11th place on a shortstack most of the night. I feel good about my live game, but you can't win them all.

I was looking through my "work-in-progress" posts to see if I had any gems. Sometimes, when I'm playing late at night, often not sober, I'll cut and paste a hand history or two into Blogger with the plan that I'll go back the next day and do some sort of pretty write up. Sometimes when I do this, I'll loook at the hand a day later and wonder why I focused on a particular hand. These next two hands were right up that alley...until I saw the last line in my post. So, without further adieu, let's clean out the vaults with two wacky hands from a $24+2, 45 person SNG on Full Tilt.

I had already chipped up to 4185, the table chip leader, when this first hand came out. I'm still slowly reading Gus Hansen's "Every Hand Revealed" and it's really loosened up my game. I've re-learned how to play strong, loose poker with a small ball element. As long as I can see the flops for cheap, I feel confident that I can outplay most opponents. Self-delusion or reality, either way, I'm enjoying the style of play.

I'm in the BB (50/100) with 57c when this hand happens. Buzz, in EP, raises to 350 (pot), and TheMan calls immediately after him. The button, Crabman, calls as well, so after the SB folds, I call fairly light with the knowledge that my 57c may be just what the doctor ordered....and if not, I can get away from the hand.

The flop comes down Q88, with two clubs. I have a low flush draw on a paired board, but based on the action, I have little reason to believe that my opponents have QQ or an 8. My goal here is to represent an 8 from the big blind. It makes some sense, given my loose defense of my blinds. AND, I have a nice backup, the flush draw. I figure it is still a good draw, and if not, I will have some indication from a flat call or a small re-raise.

I bet 700 into the 1400+ pot. I consider it a reasonable bet. It won't leave me crippled if I get called, its big enough to scare away Buzz and TheMan, who have mid-sized stacks, and Crabman has a measely 450 left, so I'm also insulated from losing a lot if he calls. Sure enough, Buzz and TheMan decide to fold. Crabman calls and shows KJd. He has no draw, but ironically is ahead.

The turn is a 2 of diamonds. The river is a 9 of hearts. I have 7 high and Crabman takes down the 2350 pot.

To me, this was a perfectly fine hand. I pushed out two players who were potential threats and then essentially put up 450 to win a 14,000 pot with 9-outs twice. You don't even need to do the math to know those were good odds.

I'm down to 3,385 on the very next hand. I'm still in the top 4 stacks though, none of which are about 4,100. Buzz can't help himself and types, "lmao," Internet speak for "I am a 12 year old girl who incidentally is laughing my ass off." I think nothing of it. After all, it must've been odd giving up a pot to K-high and 7-high. TheMan chimes in with "I play so bad." He probably is reliving the last hand and is damning himself for folding after the fact, even though I'm sure it was a logical choice at the time.

I am dealt 66 in the SB. It folds to TheCore (2,350) on the button, who raises to 300. I call for 250 more. I figure that TheCore is probably trying to steal with position after it folded to him, but rather than re-raise now, I want to see how the hand develops. I figure that after the last play, a re-raise will only get me into deeper trouble. After all, I already displayed my willingness to play loose cards to large raises, so I want to avoid getting into a preflop raise war with AQ or even KQ. The BB, CaptBilly (2,945) calls.

The flop comes down Q72, with two hearts. I don't have a heart. I check. Capt checks. TheCore bets 900 into the 1050 pot. I consider my options and go into the tank. I had him raising light preflop and nothing has happened to change that read. There are two overs to my pocket pair on the board, but unless he has 77, I don't see him hitting that card (and definitely don't see him calling a significant re-raise if he got lucky and hit the 7 only). He may've hit the Queen, but that would only happen if he had QJ, QQ, QK, or QA. He has a wide range, so the chances are more likely than not that he does not have one of those holdings. He may have a pocket pair higher than my 6s, but once again, I surmise that he may fold to a large re-raise, fearing that I hit the Queen, or even a set with 22, and am now checkraising. I push all-in for 3,085 into the 1950 pot. CaptBilly folds and TheCore calls for his last 1,150. What does he have? 89h, for a flush draw.

The turn is a heart and the river is a heart. I lose the 5,000 pot and am left with 1,035, slightly more than 10x the BB.

Two hands where I made some gutsy plays; two hands where the gutsy plays did not pay off. But the hands didn't mean that much to me when I re-read them until I saw the final line:

Buzz: "Way to donk off all those chips."

Thanks, table captain!

I mean, what the fuck?! The way I saw it, my plays were not only justifiable, but downright well done. Sure, I didn't get the results I wanted, but I made the plays I wanted, and in both instances, when all my chips went into the middle, I was either ahead, or had a slew of outs making it +EV. All this goes to show is that not only are there complete idiots out there playing poker, but if you pay close enough attention, they will announce their presence to you at the table. Buzz would've been better off typing, "My mommy let me play on her account! Yippee!"

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 11:20 AM, ,

In the Darko

I played at the Wall Street Game last night. It was a .50/1 NLHE cash game, and by the time I arrived, the first table was setting up. It was full with 11 players, so I just sat back with Christine, one of the regulars, and played some Chinese Poker while we waited for enough players to break into two tables. Most of the time, I hate waiting for poker. This time, I was all for it. Truth be told, I'd play at a shorthanded table any day over a full one. I figured that the second table was the place to be. I assumed that our table would have lollygaggers showing up late because they just aren't that into poker, action junkies showing up late throwing money around because they felt like they are late to the party, and Chris and I. I wasn't entirely off. While the players didn't fit my expected archetypes, I can only assume that it was a preferable table to the other one. For one, Darko was at the other table, and I didn't want anything to do with him.

Darko is one of those players who plays a very loose aggressive game. For instance, while watching the other table, I saw a player in EP raise the $1 blind to $5 and get four or five callers. When the action got to Darko, he raised to $65. $65! I mean, come on! Thats one of those bets where you go, "Well, it must be bullshit, because why would anyone bet that high!" And then you think, "Wait a second. Maybe that's the point! Who would bet that big without the goods. He must have AK at the very least, if not a high pocket pair!" And then you think, "But its Darko, and he may just be making a play. He plays a wide range of hands!" Followed by, "But with all those callers of the $5 bet, how can he think he can bluff 5 players?!" And, "But they are all just callers. A major hand would raise, so he's only really betting against the initial bettor, so he doesn't need a good hand." But then you remember it's a $60 bet and you just fold meekly anyway. Jamie was the initial bettor, so when everyone folded, he said, "I bet we had the same hand." Darko replied by laughing, "I don't think you could've bet preflop with my crap cards." It just leaves you wondering WTF just happened, and therein lies the greatness of Darko's game. The man plays in a way that is utterly confusing. I simultaneously envy his playing style and loathe playing against him.

The rest of the night is whatever. I won $50, playing well. I made a couple of light calls with two overs only to hit, but I only took those chances when I thought the bettor was bluffing. I took a tough beat late when I couldn't get away from the second nut flush. The worst part was that I went into a speech about how my opponent probably had the nut flush, but I couldn't stop myself anyway. It sucks breaking Jordan's Number One Rule of Poker: "When you know you are behind, fold." I also made a poorly timed bluff against another player. Other than those mistakes, I played well, squeezing value out of hands when I could. I suppose it's good I noticed all of these mistakes. At least I know what I need to work on.

That's it for today. Tonight, I return to the WSG for a 2-table tourney. Wish me luck.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 8:42 AM, ,

High On Poker's Pick for Video of the Year

If you've been reading this here blog for the last 3 1/2 years, you may have noticed that I don't post many videos. In fact, I defy you to find even one video in the well over 1000 posts at High On Poker. Why? Because no video was good enough to make it onto these elite pages. In fact, I always thought that my first posted vid would be something special to me, like my future child's first words or perhaps wifey Kim and my wedding vows.

But fuck all that because I finally found a video greater than wedding vows and talking babies riding a roller coaster filled with topless Victoria's Secret models, and it's all from a new poker blog titled Poker Blaargh. I present to you the official Poker Blaargh interview of Tiffany Michelle:

Pure genius.

Until next time, make mine BLAARGH!

posted by Jordan @ 5:31 PM, ,

Dealin' Ain't Easy!

Jordan dealing to Bobby Flay

What do you do in the following situation:

You are dealing a charity poker tournament with a variety of mostly clueless players, a smattering of pros, a professional baseball player, and a celebrity chef. You are told to take over dealing one of the last four tables left. In the 3 seat, former Phillies pitcher Ricky Bottalico is all-in. He has also been drinking. Everyone has. It's been a fun time for the most part. After all, it's for charity.

Mr. Bottalico gets called in two spots, one of which over-pushed and received the over-call. The flop is already out, A55. As the all-ins are announced, someone in the faceless crowd yells, "GET PHIL HELLMUTH! WE HAVE TWO ALL-INS! HOLD THE ACTION!" You comply and wait. One minute, two minutes. Bottalico, rightfully anxious to see the turn and river (not to mention his opponents' cards which have yet to be turned up), looks you right in the eye and barks, "Deal the cards, man!" He is now surly. The crowd around the table is three-people thick. Somewhere around minute three of sitting around holding a deck and doing little else, Mr. Hellmuth walks up to the table. He asks that the players show their cards. He then announces the hands: AJc for the biggest stack in the hand. Q5o for the guy who pushed all-in after Bottalico. J4o for Bottalico. He looks annoyed and disgusted and attempts to muck his hand. Someone pushes his cards back to him. You are asked to deal the cards. And you do...Xc, Xc. Someone announces that the three of a kind wins. Someone else yells that the AJc went runner runner flush. There is a small pop from the audience. Phil Hellmuth looks you in the eyes, standing tall over the table where you are sitting, and says this, gesturing to the cards, in an annoyed voice: "Slow down man. You gotta slow down. If you dealt that slower, the crowd really would've popped for the river card." He looks angry and disgusted on one hand, but on the other hand, Mr. Bottalico was happy to be finally out of his misery and has stopped shooting daggers at you with his eyes. What do you do?

If you are me, you say, "My apologies, Phil," and then you go about your business.

That was one of the highlights of the night. It was the only "stressful" period of dealing I had experienced for the event last night, but it didn't bother me at all. In fact, when I say, "highlight", I mean it. There was something rather enjoyable about getting the ire of Mr. Hellmuth.

That's just one moment from last night's charity event organized (at least in part...I don't know much of the behind the scenes details) by Riggstad, poker blogger, Riverchasers owner, and all-around good guy. When Riggs mentioned that he was running a $5000 buy-in poker tournament for charity in NYC with poker pros to raise money for the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, I had one thing to ask of him: "Dude, if there is any way you can get me in the door, that would be awesome. I'd do anything you want. You need dealers?"

And hence, Riggs was kind enough to extend an invitation. I would be operating as a dealer, something I had never done professionally or semi-professionally in any capacity. But dealing is just natural to me. I'm an aggressive, A-personality type guy, and when I'm at a homegame, I'm more than happy to take the deck and deal for the evening.

As the event neared, Riggs and Griff, his buddy who was also helping out, needed more dealers. I had just the guys, Matty Ebs, who used to deal in underground poker rooms, and Robbie Hole, who deals for a party company on weekends. Both guys were happy to deal, mostly for the same reasons I was. This was a rare opportunity to potentially deal to some big name players and otherwise attend an event that none of us could afford. SCORE!

With my crew already at the venue, I strolled in at 6pm, a good hour after everyone was supposed to arrive. In my day job, I'm an attorney, so I had already spent 9 hours working on various different lawsuits. I was mildly tired, mostly because I realized that I had another full work day ahead of me. But when I entered the room, a large open ballroom with a dozen or so poker tables, sushi and other dishes laid out at the sides of the room, a DJ playing tunes, and a couple of bars, I was invigorated.

The beginning of the night was fairly slow. I got dressed in my tuxedo shirt and accoutrements and hung out with the other dealers. I was under the impression that they were mostly from the Borgata, but once I saw some familair faces from the Bash, I learned that there were only two Borg dealers in the bunch. The rest were rank amatuers, like myself.

The poker tables were already set up, 12-13 in total, donated for the event by the Borgata, as was apparent by the Borg logos. Each dealer grabbed a table. I started with the 12th table, since I figured it was in the back and might break first. I was just as interested in the experience as dealing, so if I broke early, I could hang around and just soak up the atmosphere. As I waited, several different organizers began to circulate info on what celebrity players were sitting where. At my table was a Philadelphia Phillies pitcher whose name I don't rightly remember. I'll probably add it later. I didn't know the guy from a hole in the wall, since I don't care much for baseball or Philadelphia, so I offered up my table to the other PA-based dealers. It was taken quickly and I was moved to Table 2, where the celebrity player was originally supposed to be the head of the hospital. Not quite a prime time player, but ultimately, even that didn't work out. I think I was the only table without any celebs sitting, even though I was told several times that Hellmuth would be at my table. I had mixed emotions about that prospect, but I was mostly excited. Alas, it was not meant to be.

As the event started, I took my seat and began teaching some of the early arrivals about poker. At my table, there was probably one guy with a working knowledge of the game and one guy who thought he knew the game. The others had no idea, so the tutorial was highly necessary. It's interesting teaching poker to newbies. There is a lot of thought we put into the game as regular players, so teaching a newbie the game in 10 minutes is sorta a lesson in editing. You can't teach them everything, so I just focused on the basics.

Meanwhile, I kept my eyes moving around the room. By far, one of the coolest things was seeing Phil Ivey up close. He and Annie Duke were two of the three poker celebs on hand, with Hellmuth as the third, taking hosting duties for the tourneys. I know a lot about Ivey from TV, websites, and the like, so just seeing him across the room was a bit exciting. I'm not a star-fucker though, and I was "working" so I made no effort to engage him in conversation. He was there for the guests, not for me.

Beth Shak was also floating around. I had never seen or really heard of Beth Shak before, but let me tell you first hand that she is one fine piece of ass (Mrs. Shak, I mean that in the nicest way possible). I mean, F-iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-ne. Her picture, right, really does not do her justice. Later, I would get to deal to her husband, Dan Shak, photo below, and if you saw the two of them next to each other, you'd probably guess that he was her accountant, lawyer, or, well, accountant before you'd think they were an item. A man after my own heart. As the Rooster will attest, wifey Kim is WAY out of my league. As opposed to Beth, Dan is a bit more humble looking, but no less friendly. He sat at my table during the tournament for a while and he was friendly the entire time.

Eventually, the announcements began with a thank you speech from a couple of CHOP officials. Then they called up Hellmuth, "Regarded as the best poker player alive." When he took the mic, he walked over to Phil Ivey and asked, "Did you hear that, Phil? I'm the best player alive." Ivey responded: "She must not watch a lot of poker."

My first table was actually a lot of fun, particularly for an inexperienced dealer like myself who sees himself more as a player than a dealer. Most of the time, I was directing the action. The most common play at the table was the min-bet on EVERY STREET, not to mention a lot of calls. Players refused to raise preflop, even with AA and QQ, causing those hands to go down in flames.

I coached my table as much as possible. After all, I actually had real money on this event. Not one to sit on the sidelines, I organized a couple of other dealers into a prop bet. Everyone put $10 into the pot and if one of our starting table players won the event, the dealer from that starting table won the pot. No one won, since we didn't have every dealer in on the bet, so eventually everyone got their money back from the pot. But at least one of my students, who had never played poker before in her life, made it to 5th place out of 110 in the event.

While I was giving my lessons, I saw a few familiar faces in the crowd. Those would be Mary, Derek and Joaquin, who all got into the event without necessarily having to work it. AlCantHang, meanwhile, was manning the BuddyDankRadio live broadcast. Lucky guys, I thought, at first, but when I had my first break, I found myself itching to get back to dealing. I love poker and all that poker around me was too much. I just couldn't sit back and watch. At least when I was dealing, I was actively engaged in the game.

Overall, the players were very friendly. I didn't have any real problems at all, save for one issue involving min-re-raises. One player, a surly gent with grey hair, a sharp looking sports coat, and the speed of a well-seasoned drunk, raised to 3,000 with blinds of 500/1000. He was a transplant from another table, as no one from my table would raise more than the min. A late position player, the only guy from my original table with half a clue, pushed all-in for $7,400. The action got around to one other gent, who raised to $10,000. See the problem? Any raise has to be equal to or greater than the raise before it, so the raise to $7,400 was an addition $4,400. At first, the original bettor protested that the $10k guy couldn't pull back his bet. I explained that I had it under control as I tried to work out the math. Dan Shak chimed in, and started to assist, backing up the first bettor. Finally, though, Shak caught up to what was happening and announced, "Okay, he has to raise to a minimum of $11,800." Of course, I said the same thing about 1 minute before him, but people actually listened to Shak. It was a bit of an annoyance, but it taught me a lesson. Being a dealer can be a real pain in the ass. People (and here, I mean the original bettor) can easily treat dealers like know-nothing servants. It was absurd that this guy thought that the $10k bet was ok, and yet I, the dealer(!), didn't know what I was doing. Once Shak chimed in, though, Shak was right. I wasn't. Shak was. That said, I thanked Shak for stepping in and backing me up, and went back to dealing. And for what it is worth, the original bettor didn't really give me much trouble overall. This one hand just got a bit too confusing for him.

As the night wore on, I got a chance to sub for my buddy Robbie Hole. He had been dealing at Bobby Flay's table all night. Flay looked really sullen to me. He was staring away from the table a decent amount. I think he was trying to actually win the damn event, moreso than most, and had a good grasp on the game. He was cordial at the table, although in my short stint, he didn't play a single hand. Eventually, I saw Rob coming back from his break and I called him over. The table LOVED him, and seemed disappointed that he left. Aside from Flay, the table was uproariously drunk and rowdy. Whereas I had the table of earnest know-nothing players who were learning the game, he had the table of partying know-nothing players, enjoying a few cocktails. One chick even pinched my ass before I turned around. She was mortified, thinking I was Rob. That Rob is one smoove operator. (Side note: The same chick was eventually found literally passed out on the floor behind one of the buffet tables.)

After Rob took over, I returned to my original table until it broke. I then had some time to just relax. I had covertly been drinking some rum and coke (the official mixed drink of High on Poker) since it could pass for soda to the guests. I wasn't getting drunk, as I wanted to be respectful and responsible, but a few stiff cocktails were nice. That's another thing I learned about being in the service industry for a night; the bar tenders were more than willing to hook us up with strong drinks in a sense of "We are the only non-rich people in the room" comraderie.

This was when I was tapped into the Bottaglia table and had the hand that openned up this post. After that hand, we went on immediate break, during which time, I called over another dealer to take over. I was on a bit of dealer tilt and had my fill for the night. As the clock ticked on, players were getting increasingly irritable. It may've been booze or it may've been the escalating pressure of tournament poker. Whatever it was, my turn as a poker dealer was officially over, as far as I was concerned.

The rest of the night was unexciting. The tournament lasted until after 12:30 am. Riggs was nice enough to let me and my buds cut out at 12:30, though. Much appreciated. Overall, it was a great experience. I got to see some poker pros up close and experience something I normally would not, a high-buy-in charity event complete with celebrity players. Matty Ebs even scored two of the items from the silent auction, a tad ironic since there were only about 7 items and one of the working dealers won two. Robbie Hole, meanwhile, got a sweet Ace of Spades signed by Mr. Hellmuth himself.

A big thanks to Riggs for letting me and my friends deal. From my vantage, it was a great event. I'll also give props to the dealers, generally. The PA crew are a bunch of easy-to-get-along-with guys, so it was a good group to work with.

After the event, Hole and I returned to my apartment, where he planned to crash for the night. Before hitting the sack, though, we sat up and talked for a good 30 minutes about the event. We were like two overexcited school girls after an NKOTB concert. The whole experience was just so surreal. It's right up there with the time I got drunk on wine with Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor while in an Irish castle at 10pm in bright daylight. But that's a whole other story.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 9:20 AM, ,

December in Vegas Hotel Question

For all you bloggers who will be in Vegas for the Winter Gathering in December, where will you be staying? I had planned on staying at the IP since it was cheap, centrally located, and my home base (along with many other bloggers) last year. However, I saw some great deals for the MGM (thanks to Astin), but before I make the change, I figure I'd take a quick survey.

So, where are you staying? Please leave a comment or email me at HighOnPokr (no E) at yahoo dot communitychest.

posted by Jordan @ 11:42 AM, ,

Dealing with Charity

When I was at the Bash this year, I spent some time talking to Riggstad, Pennsylvania local and the man behind Riverchasers. Riggs, much like the other Pennsy native, AlCantHang, is one of those unique individuals you will meet in life. Or at least, I will meet in life. Whereas ACH is a one-man party, Riggs seems to be a one-man business, and by that, I mean that I get the impression that when Riggs sets about doing something, it gets done. And done well. So when I heard he was organizing a charity poker event in New York City with big-name poker players expected to attend, I did what any self-respecting blogger with a poker fetish would do...I begged him to get me in. And he succeeded. Hence, this Wednesday, I will attend a $5,000 buy-in poker tournament featuring big name poker players (who I will not name here until after the event) at a fancy shmancy hotel in NYC...and I'm dealing.

When Riggs mentioned he needed dealers, I offered to help. After all, this was a big ticket event, and I didn't expect to just get in on my looks alone. Dealing also offered another benefit. I'd get to interact with the players more without being a fan boy dousche looking for a way to strike up a conversation. So, with my role as dealer locked in, I went about looking for more dealers for Riggs and came upon Robbie Hole and Matty Ebs, two of my poker comrades.

Yesterday, I started thinking about the event some more and, frankly, began to scare myself. I've never dealt professionally, so I went onto Yahoo Answers to ask about usual casino shuffling protocol. I'm pretty good with a deck of cards and I've dealt at many a home game, more often than not inebriated, so I figured I could deal poker. But then I thought about the extra pressure of dealing to OH MY GOD, ISN'T THAT __________, and began to give myself stage fright. Since then, I talked myself down, largely because the event organizers told me that they were more concerned with the newbies than the pros. There would be a lot of first-time players, so I realized that aside from prompting the action, something I am an expert at due to my impatience, the real problems at the table would come from the players, not me.

Suffice it to say that at this point, I'm just excited. I can't freakin' wait, which is kinda ironic because technically after working all day as a lawyer, I'll be attending my second job tomorrow night as a poker dealer...and I hate working (I love my job, but I hate's a fine distinction). But that's poker for you. It's the only activity where I would be willing to: (1) skip meals without noticing or caring, (2) stay awake until ungodly hours of the morning, (3) participate in for 8 hours straight without hesitation, and now (4) work as a second job when I don't need the money. Fuck yeah. I love this game.

Of course, the game doesn't love me. I've been suffering some beats online. Some of them are my fault. Others are poker's fault. Most are poker's fault, actually, but I hate saying that because I can't affect poker. I can only affect how I handle things, so if 99% of one's losses is bad luck and 1% is bad play, the only thing that matters is that 1%. Of course, for me, it's slightly more than 1% of bad play, but the 1% was just an example.

Naturally, I am talking only about online poker. Live poker has been nil since Turning Stone. And that just sucks.

No poker on the horizon, but at least I get to deal tomorrow. I'm holding on to December, where I go to Vegas and AC in a matter of weeks. I need to win several thousands of dollars to reach my 2008 goal, and I don't have much hope. But, hell, yearly goals are all arbitrary anyway.

I contemplated writing a post solely about wifey Kim. Sometimes, especially lately, I feel like she gets glanced over at HoP. Truth be told, any post would be all sappy. It's weird, in a way, having a wife who you absolutely love and cherish. I know, gay. But there it is. I'm a very lucky man to have found such a wonderful woman with such low standards. I feel like a .25/.50 NLHE player who got backed into the WSOP ME. One lucky bastard.

But rather than bore you with a whole post on how much I love my wife, I'll just leave you with that last paragraph. Commence with the swooning, ladies.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 12:06 PM, ,

Spitzer Revisited


I was perusing the news this morning when I read that former NY Governor Elliot Spitzer will not be charged for his role as a john (i.e., customer) in a prostitution ring bust. At the time when news of his involvement first broke, I was annoyed at the ridiculous attention Gov. Spitzer was getting. It eventually led to his resignation because any male who likes to pay for some strange is unfit to govern the land. I took a different stance. To me, I just called it what it was: reality. Men who are attracted to positions of power, including political office, tend to be by nature aggressive, competitive guys with narcissistic tendencies. These same guys are the ones who crave sex (aggression) and think that they are never going to get caught when cheating on their wives and/or paying for a hooker (narcissism).

All that said, my simple thought on the matter was that having the traits of most politicians should be grounds for being forced out of office by public opinion. Spitzer's desire to get his dick wet did not affect his ability to act as the Governor of New York, and may have even aided it. Would you rather have your governing officer pre-occupied with meeting and bedding chicks, or would you rather he be able to just get his rocks off, pay for it, and be on his way? And let's be real, cheating on your wife is nothing new in politics. I did a whole post on Presidents who cheated on their wives yet were still fit to serve office after the John Edwards Gets Some Poontang on the Side story broke.

In response, the incredulous among you said that Spitzer was wrong because he used government money to pay for his trists, including paying for security when he traveled to see his call girl. In reality, as Governor, he had security detail on him 24 hrs. a day, so they would follow him anywhere, whether it be to have sex or to pick up a new DVD player at the local Best Buy. Is it a waste of taxpayer dollars to pay for security to get audio-visual equipment with the Governor for his new pad? Hell no! They are required to be with him. Just because it was DVDA instead of a DVD doesn't change the "corruptness" of having security with him 24 hrs. a day.

The same arguments were made for Spitzer's decision to pay for hotel rooms in which he had illicit sex with taxpayer money. Of course, those people trumpeting this horror failed to disclose tha the hotel rooms were paid for because he was on official business. The sex was an aside. It's like getting upset that Elliot Spitzer ordered room service (that he paid for out of pocket) and therefore was eating in his publicly-paid-for-room but not doing official business while he ate his personally-paid-for club sandwich. Sure, the clubsandwich is illegal, but that's what I'm getting to...

It is illegal to be participate in prostitution. HOWEVER, the johns are rarely, if ever, charged. Why? I don't know. Probably because if cops arrested every john, there'd be no room in jail for actual criminals. Regardless, why should Spitzer be treated any more harshly merely because he is governor. Why should we pretend that he and only he should be prosecuted for paying for a hummer when traditionally, johns are not targets.

The answer is, we should not charge Spitzer for being a john, because johns are not charged. Spitzer was no different.

But here is the real kicker. The media acts shocked that a politician likes to pay for sex, the public act shocked, and Spitzer is forced to resign from office. And who do we end up with in his stead? A fucking blind guy who no one ever wanted as Governor, who has admitted to cheating on his wife multiple times and doing hard drugs. What the fuck, America?! This is the upgrade from the cleancut guy who liked to have some new cooch every once in a while and was willing to pay for it to keep it purely business?

And so, Spitzer is not charged for any crimes. He is no longer Governor. His political career was kicked in the sack, and it was all for this illusion of innocence. What a load of crap.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 10:10 AM, ,

Barack Costs Me Money

Barack Obama 1, Jordan -$60

Barack Obama cost me money, damnit! I don't want to get into the whole political jag, since you are all probably sufficiently exhausted from patting each other on the back or yelling at the TV about how a Communist Muslim President will destroy this fine land. But voting last night was a real trip and a half.

I'd only voted for one presidential election prior to yesterday. In 2004, I put in my vote for Kerry, hoping that we could get Bush out of the White House after the Iraqi War debacle. Back then, I was still officially registered to my LI town. I headed home, caught a ride with my ma, and waited in a small church for my chance to vote. There were maybe 10 people in line, tops. I did my civic duty, caught a train back to the city and the rest was history.

Last night, I agreed to join wifey Kim to the polls for her first ever presidential vote. I had since registered in NYC, and our voting booths were set up in the lobby of a retirment center. The line snaked out the door and down the street. We hopped on and waited. About 5 minutes into the wait, we saw my brother and sister-in-law about 10 people ahead of us. We began jabbering back and forth. They tried to goad me with their campaigning for McCain: "If you make more than $113,000 your taxes will go up under Obama!" I big my tongue and tried to remember that it was all nonsense. I could've fired back that if you have health insurance, you will be paying taxes on it under McCain, but what was the point. There mind was made up. In actuality, mine was not.

While waiting to vote, I considered voting for a third-party candidate. NY did not need my vote to elect Obama, so a third-party vote would be a big middle-finger to our two-party, one-agenda system. The line was long, and as it slowly progressed, I began to fixate on my watch. I had a poker game to attend at 7pm at the Wall Street Game and it was 6:13 when we got on line. As the clock ticked, I became more and more anxious. By the time I had voted, it was 7:55. I ran to the WSG and took my seat, near the end of the 150/300 level. I was down from my starting stack of 2500 to about 1925 or so. Not too bad, all things considered.

One thing about the voting process though: it was a real clusterfuck. I will never again wait on a line that long unless there is a Space Mountain on the other end of it. There were four districts all voting at the polling place, and only my district had the long-ass lines. 100+ people lined up for District 8, but District 9 had about a dozen, and district 97 was even more empty. It was ridiculous, but who was I to buck the system. I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, once inside, the line split based on the alphabet. Unfortunately, the volunteer working the line at the polling center lacked a chromosome or two. As a result, my alphabet line led into the wrong voting booth, and I eventually had to call over the challenged helper to get the line back on its intended course.

Whatever the case, I did my civic duty and was happy to run, in full work gear, to Jamie's apartment. The tourney had a lot of familiar faces and just as many new ones, but I was a man on a mission, with the sole goal to focus on making that paper. I was at my table for a good 5 minutes before I said hello to half the people in the room.

So, remember that post title? Yeah. Tourney didn't go so well. Long story short, I came in with just under 2k in chips and blinds of 75/150, going up to 100/200 within 10 minutes of my arrival. So, I tried to play push-or-fold poker.

The odd thing is, I really like push-or-fold poker. It really is largely about reading your opponents and the table to determine when you can make a push with mediocre cards but still more-than-likely take down a pot uncontested. Card-dead, I was down to only 1200 and change in little time. So, I finally decided to make my move from the button when everyone folded to me. I held K4o, and decided that it was a good time for a push. I like K4o for this play, even if I don't love it. More likely than not, you'll take down the pot, and if you are called, you may be facing a pair (worse case scenario) but you may very well have two live cards if called by an Ace, like AT-AQ, etc.

Well, none of that mattered anyway, since I was called by KTo by Cheryl. I should've known better too, since she is a fairly loose caller. This was merely me not thinking it through enough. I knew I needed to accumulate chips, but I wasn't considering my opponents' tendencies. So, all the blame is on Barack. I mean, jebus, if I wasn't late, I wouldn't be in that mess.

I headed home and asked for Ebs to text me if a cash game started. I never got the text, but that was fine with me. Once home, I was happy to be with Kim.

Of course, the $35 buy-in isn't my only loss attributable to our new Prez. I also lost $25 on a Bodog Bet that McCain would win. I liked the odds they were giving him and I wanted to hedge my vote. This way, no matter who won, I felt like a winner.

So, Barack cost me $60 already, and if you listen to the propaganda from either side, that's either the first of many dollars he has cost me or a small price to pay for entry into the gates of heaven that is Obamanation. Whatever the case, today feels an aweful lot like yesterday and the day before it. Hopefully, all the political fanatics can take a couple of months of vacation before the hellfire and brimstone language gets going again.

On an unrelated note, I continue to read Gus Hansen's new book and its fantastic. It is a real pleasure reading the hands of a pro throughout a tourney. It's a vast improvement from some of the other books I've read. Instead of theoretical thoughts on poker, you get to see how a real pro goes about his business. The fact that it is Hansen is just all the better. I can feel my game changing as I read. I can only hope that the trend continues, because I feel more confident than ever.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 10:48 AM, ,

As the Stone Turns (Syracuse Trip Report)

This weekend, I joined wifey Kim and our mutual bud, B, to Syracuse to visit a few of wifey Kim's friends who just bought a house. The 'Cuse was a revelation for me...a revelation in what I would probably never have. Living in NYC is tough, in some ways. Overall, I consider myself blessed to be in the Center of It All, but after spending a weekend seeing the alternative, I admit that I am a bit tempted to pick up my stakes and move camp. Living in Syracuse would allow me easy access to a poker room, the Turning Stone Casino, cheap property and probably a decent enough salary as an attorney without the hastle of taking a new bar exam. It's a dream world, which I find a tad ironic for a guy who a year ago would've said that he never wanted to leave the City. But it'll probably never happen because wifey Kim and I have our roots near the City and it'd be hard leaving friends and family behind. Besides, all I need is wifey Kim. Location is secondary.

One of the highlights of the weekend was my trip with Craig to Turning Stone Casino for a $90 tournament that started at 11 am on Saturday. Craig and I had played on a few other occassions. When he lived in Vegas with wifey Kim's friend, Craig showed me around to several poker rooms while the girls caught up. When we all met up in Colorado for the Anti-Semitic Wedding, Craig joined me for our excursion into the Colorado poker scene. Now it was time for me to see his new home turf, and overall, I was quite impressed.

The Turning Stone looks like a convention center/hotel complex in the middle of nowhere. I didn't get a feeling for the surrounding area, mostly because we exited the highway, drove on some open roads in the middle of nowhere and pulled into the complex. Upon first sight, it's pretty impressive looking, a sprawling complex with several towers. Inside, it was just as impressive. It may not have had the sheen of a new Vegas casino, but the place felt mostly new, clean, expansive, and overall seemed like a good place to play.

As we walked in, I asked Craig about how busy it would be. Apparently, the poker room has been hurting. Craig has his own theories, with one being that the poker room made a big mistake by changing their tourney schedule. Instead of having different events every day, it's a general tournament ran daily. This reduces the menu of offerings and the temptation/need for a player to attend on a particular night. For instance, if you like rebuy tourneys, you may show up for a Wednesday rebuy event instead of waiting for the weekend. When every day is the same tourney and buy-in, though, there is no incentive to play on one day rather than the other. So, instead of regular "events" that bring in customers, you have a general incentive to play that probably only attracts a very casual type of player.

The Turning Stone allows gambling at the age of 18, but does not serve alcoholic drinks. In fact, there is a club on the premises that apparently allows the clientelle to bring in their own alcohol. I assume this was a compromise to allow the 18 minimum age requirement. It seems odd to me, but when in Rome...

There was another odd quirk, too. Apparently, some law requires that the poker room be a private club. Hence, Turning Stone has to take a cover charge for all players. It's a once-a-day fee of $2, paid at the entrance of the room. For your $2, you get a little card that you must display at all times at the table. Seems silly to me, but whatever works. Craig, meanwhile, grumbled about the $2 as only a poker player could: "Fine, there's a law, but why not charge $1 instead of $2." Craig also pointed out that Turning Stone's slots had a 50 or 60% payout, well below Vegas' regular 95%+ payouts. "It doesn't stop the blue-hairs from running through their social security checks though." And sure enough he was right. Those golden oldies swarm like bees.

We were twenty minutes early, so after paying the cover charge and signing up for the tournament, I found a seat by a TV and thumbed through the free copy of Card Player, once again marveling at what passes for poker media. Eventually, it was time for the tourney to start, so I took my seat and waited.

The tourney had a buy-in of $90, although I don't know what the breakdown is from buy-in and fee. There were just short of 100 players on a Saturday afternoon. The tables were clean, comfortable and overall in good condition. The tournament chips, though, were old and pretty dirty. The green 25 chips were of varying shades of green, not just because of the dirt, and the tourney chips generally felt cheap and flimsy. However, the dealers were quick and courteous, which is probably the most important thing.

My table had an eclectic group, mostly white male with ages ranging from young 20s (maybe younger) to senior citizens. More than a few players were clearly clueless and did not understand simple concepts like being first to act when under the gun. I tried to take mental notes as I gathered info from my table.

The table's general demeanor was tight and scared. I liked it. Once I realized no one was really playing fancy, I knew that it would be a good table to try the limping-light strategy. It's basic small ball poker, playing lots of hands for cheap with the hope that I could outplay my opponents after the flop. I limp-folded a few times with suited connectors and suited gappers. I finally played my first hand due mostly to position.

There were a good 4 limpers into the pot, if not more, before the action got to me on the button. I held Qd3h, hardly a stellar hand, but since there was a lot of money in the pot, I decided to call merely to see a flop. I suppose a bunch of you are grumbling right now, since Q3o is hardly a premium hand. I don't blame you. For the casual observer or player, it makes little sense to play such crap cards. To me, I saw deep enough stacks (5,000, with blinds of 25/50), quickly escalating blinds (which lessened my chances for these light preflop calls), impressive pot odds and a predictable player base.

The flop came down Q-high with two low hearts. It checked to me and I considered checking as well. Finally, I opted for a bet, due to the draws and the fact that the action pretty much announced that no one hit top pair. I got called in two places and the three of us saw the turn, an Ace of hearts. It checked to me and I wondered if anyone was slowplaying their made flush. I didn't want to bet out since I very well could be behind a stronger (but still weak Queen) from one of the less experienced opponents who didn't know well enough to fold their better hand to my flop bet. I checked. We saw the river, a fourth heart. It checked to me and I checked as well. One person announced second-pair on the flop. I was surprised that no one had a heart besides me. I tabled my hand, Qd3h, and won the pot with a flush.

A very short while later, I received KK in EP. I decided to raise 3x the BB to 150 and got two callers. I was in the 9 seat and one of the callers was sitting across the table from me in the 3s. He seemed like one of the few players worthy of concern. He was a white male, aged in his mid to late 20s, with dark, bristly, short hair and a scraggly, tight black goatee. He seemed to be pretty serious about the game.

The flop was Q9X, rainbow. It checked to me and I bet out 350, hoping to get some action. To my surprise, the 3 seat check-raised for 850 total, 500 more to me. The action folded to me and I took my time. I didn't want to lose to a flopped set, but I couldn't imagine him playing so coy with QQ preflop. I also knew that my image was pretty wild, so he could've made this play with a wide range of hands. AQ seemed the most likely, so after weighing all the possibilities, I decided to get more information by re-raising 1500 more. That was a sizeable amount of our 5k stacks. His call told me that he did not have a set, and probably didn't have two pair either. AQ or KQ made the most sense to me at the time.

The turn was a Ten of Hearts, creating a heart flush draw. My opponent checked and I moved all-in. He thought for a while and I announced, "Just fold and nobody gets hurt." He did not acknowledge my statement and did not even look at me while he contemplated what to do. I can't understand that type of behavior, although I've fallen into it myself more than once. Really, he should have been staring at nothing but me. His cards weren't going to change if he stared at them. The board wasn't going to reveal anything. But maybe he could pick something off of my mannerisms. After a long wait, he called. We flipped over our cards, my KK vs. his J9d. He had flopped second pair, check raised me and then called my re-raise, turned a straight draw and a flush draw, and then called my all-in. His all-in call wasn't bad. His flop play, though, was fairly weak. The river came down, 8d, and he hit his straight to win the pot. He had me covered by 50 or so, and that was it for me and the tournament.

I was friendly to everyone as I gathered my stuff. As I left the table, I heard the 3 Seat explaining himself to his neighbors: "He showed the Q3o earlier. I couldn't put him on Kings!" Whatever, dude. It's clearly his effort to assuage some embarassment or whatnot. Lord knows I didn't give him any shit for the hand.

I walked to the next table, where Craig was still playing in the tournament. He had won our last longer bet, but we had a caveat. If he won more than $1000 in the tournament, I'd get my buy-in back and the last longer bet was nil.

With time to kill and poker on the brain, I signed up for a 1/2 NLHE game. When I sat down, the table was tight. Super tight. Everyone was folding to $6 raises preflop. I accepted my fate in this tighty table, since I was really just killing time. I was also getting a feel for the players.

The dealers at the cash games were universally good. They were quick and mostly friendly. When I got a bit uppity, they mostly played along. One dealer shared that the room was going through tough times and had laid off a bunch of staff. The room didn't seem to be rocking as much as it should have on a weekend afternoon, but it wasn't quiet either. When I first sat down, there were maybe 6-8 different cash games going. By the time I left, it was more like 16.

A little while after sitting down, an Asian guy took the 2s. I was in the 4s. The Asian guy looked familiar, but I couldn't place it and still can't to this day. He actually looked like someone I had played poker with before, although I probably never had any words with the guy. I could tell immediately that he was a loose player. He limped in a bunch of pots with crap cards and hit showdown a few times. I made it a thing to get into pots with him.

I don't remember my first pot with him, but I ended up winning it for about $35 profit or so. I remember thinking, "That was what I was waiting for." I had position and a loose player. I was ready to rock and roll.

A few hands later, I was dealt AA. I raised preflop to $10. I was considering a smaller bet, $7 or $8, because of the tight table, but the Asian was in the SB, so I figured I'd get a call from him at the very least. Instead, I got two calls, one from a guy on my immediate left and the Asian.

The flop came down K83, rainbow. It checked to me and I bet out $15, hoping to keep the Asian on the hook. The guy to my left folded, but the Asian called. The turn was a blank. It checked to me and I bet out $30. The Asian raised $55 on top. I took my time trying to figure out my play. He had lost a few pots already and had topped off his buy-in at some point. I figured he was chasing his losses and was willing to gamble. I went over the hand in my head and I assumed that he thought I was running a play. I had established myself as a skilled player and my betting pattern in the hand could be construed as a sign that I held less than stellar cards. To recap, I raised $10 from EP, meaning that I had something in my hand. I bet weakly on the flop, suggesting that I was probing for info or hoping to buy the flop for cheap. On the alternative, I may have a monster and was trying to get action. On the turn, I raised my bet considerably, suggesting that I no longer wanted info; I wanted to end it. If I were the Asian, I might think that the other guy (i.e., me) probably missed his two high cards or felt vulnerable to the flopped King. I would raise him (me) to force a fold and take down a considerable pot. If the action played back at me, I could fold.

I considered all of this and re-raised all-in. I figured he might call me light with a strong King. I was wrong though. At showdown, he tabled K3h, for flopped two pair. I had been played. Unlike the hand where AA was cracked, this one was more my fault. I think my thought process was ok, but I could've gotten a better read on my opponent. Looking back, I suppose he may've been more comfortable than I like.

Interestingly, when he got up to play at a 2/5 game, he lightly tapped my shoulder and said, "sorry." I replied, "hey, it wasn't your fault." It was a good 15 or 20 minutes after the AA was cracked, but we both knew what we were discussing. I think we developed some mutual respect, crafted from the recognition that we were the only real players at the table.

I wish I could say things turned around. They didn't. I was three-outtered on the river in one hand that lost me another $100+. I lost many more hands and finally cashed out down a little more than $300 in the cash. I just couldn't get traction. I don't even want to go into it too much here because it just sounds like excuses. Suffice it to say that it wasn't the best day I've had at the tables. Overall, I felt like I was playing well, but it was hard to overcome some of the natural obstacles that are a part of poker.

At one point, I was called for a new 5/10 O8 game. I was stuck probably $250 in the cash game at that point and considered heading to O8. When I got to the table, it was 8 or so old white guys with grey hair. I walked back to the NLHE table and mentioned to the dealer that I just checked out the LO8 game. "Good luck getting in there." "Actually, a seat is open, but the table composition looks kinda...(I didn't want to say old)...tight." "Yeah," the dealer replied, "those guys are all regulars. They just want to pass time." I accepted that the game would not be juicy and stayed at the NLHE table.

After the several hours of play, what really struck me was the different ways that the two players who cracked my premium hands (KK in the tourney, AA at cash) acted. The first guy was immediately looking for excuses to justify his play. He was clearly less experienced than the latter Asian guy and felt embarassed about his good fortune. It kinda pissed me off because I was beyond the hand already and didn't need to hear him going on about how his play was justified. No one critiqued him, myself included. In contrast, the Asian guy just kept his mouth shut and quietly "apologized" on his way to a new table. His "sorry" seemed to be as much about acknowledging the bad beat as opposed to asking for forgiveness. And his response was really a lot easier on me, largely because of my reaction.

In both instances, I accepted the results. I didn't like my play in the second hand against the Asian, but I couldn't and wouldn't fault myself for the play with KK in the tournament. I looked for opportunities to learn from each, but didn't dwell on what could have been or how bad my luck was.

Down about $400 in a day, my total for the year is increasingly bleak. I'm still in the black, but I am so far behind my intiial goal for the year as to make it completely irrelevant. But I am committed to the game for the long haul and I take this year as merely a step along the way. It can't all be forward progress.

One bright thing that came out of the trip, poker-wise, was the fact that Craig had just finished Gus Hansen's new book. I'm not one for poker books any more, but I decided to check it out and so far its been a revelation. I guess my style is closer to Gus' than I realized. Like Gus, my play may look erratic and reckless from the outside, but internally, its all calculated aggression. I can already feel my game getting stronger from the book and I hope to continue.

On the way out of the poker room, we stopped at a food court, which had a decent variety of stations. I settled on a simple burger, paid by Craig with my last longer money. He failed to cash, so we left the poker room after he busted, about 3 hours after the tourney had began.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 9:48 PM, ,