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Preview Day

Is anyone else really digging the way that Heroes has seemingly resurrected itself in all of two episodes? The characters' motivations seem more clear, the storylines have decent twists and even the thin filler moments (drinking contests in Mexico?) seem more fun. I miss J-Goat's recaps, but I can't blame him for quitting. As long as J-Goat keeps putting out Lost recaps I can't complain.

This is more of a preview post. I thank you all for bearing with me these last few weeks or months. Peaks and valleys, folks; it's as true for blogging as it is for poker. Poker, meanwhile, continues to frustrate online whereas my few live sessions have been going well. I rather not dwell on it too long though. Suffice it to say that I had a decent first three months of the year live and a forgettable break-even three months online.

Coming up, wifey Kim has herself a birthday get together with all of her HS female friends. One of the gals is flying in from Georgia and the plan is for the girly crew to meet up this Saturday on Long Island. Seeing opportunity, I immediately announced my plans: "Looks like I'll be in AC!" I sent out a text message to my buddies, but haven't gotten any bites yet. No matter what, though, it looks like I'm AC-bound. On one hand, it's nice to be so independent and confident that taking the trip solo is no problem; on the other hand, it is mildly disturbing to my GamAnon sponsor.

Besides that, I've been reading a book called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Blink and The Tipping Point. Outliers is about statistical outliers, generally people who stand out amongst the crowd, whether they be hockey standouts, computer wizzes, or mathemagicians. Naturally, I saw a couple of segments fairly applicable to poker, so once I'm done with the book, you'll be hearing more about it here.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 9:18 AM, ,

The Leak: NCAA Brackets

It's been a while since we've delved into one of the Leaks, those things I do that just leak bankroll on something usually outside of my control and beyond my abilities. This time, we turn our attention to the time suck that is NCAA Basketball brackets.

This Sunday, I joined wifey Kim and a bunch of her friends to visit the NJ home of one of her friends that just recently had her second baby. While the girls were off cooing about how cute the baby was, the guys were left to their own devices. Naturally, NCAA basketball became a topic of conversation.

It's safe to say that in many social groups, I'm known as the gambler. People hear that I play poker and that starts the ball rolling. Then, once we get chatting, AC and Vegas comes up and my depth of knowledge builds the gamblers' image. When the group eventually learns that I have a poker blog, it's the tipping point, and from then on, I become the gambler of the group. Of course, the prop bets with civilians don't help.

With this group, I'm the gambler, naturally, so when NCAA bracket talk started up, everyone was surprised when I announced, "This is the last year for NCAA brackets for me."

Most civilians don't understand the distinction between being a poker player and a gambler. When they hear that you play poker, they will discuss their blackjack play or their one big slot machine payoff. I'm no snob, and I usually don't argue about the difference between poker and gambling, but when the conversation does occur, most people are confused.

"I thought you liked gambling?" one of the guys asked. "I do," I responded, "but not this type of gambling. I gamble for two reasons, to make money and have fun. With poker, I have both. I can win money consistently and I enjoy the game. Sometimes, I'll play table games with wifey Kim, but only for entertainment. I know I can't win in the longrun, so I play rarely but never with the expectation that I might win. But NCAA brackets are just no fun. I know nothing about the teams, I choose them like it's a lotto, and then I don't even care enough to watch the games. There is no fun and no expectation to win money."

And that's it in a nutshell. I don't begrudge others who enjoy NCAA pools. Hell, I encourage it, because the more people gamble, the more it becomes a socially-accepted norm. Plus, if you are successful generally at it, or if it helps you enjoy the tournament more, then you are getting the benefit of entertainment. But me, not so much. It's just a money leak, with no entertainment value whatsoever.

So, add that to my (now) list of three things Jordan will not do in the future to address leaks:

1. NCAA Basketball brackets
2. NFL Superbowl Boxes (what is fun about hoping that one team scores a touchdown, then the other team kicks a field goal and then a safety just so I can win the quarter; its a bastardization of the game...and I usually end up with 2/5 or 5/2)
3. Girl Scout Cookies (the cookies get worse and worse, and the prices and social pressures keep going up and up)

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 12:13 PM, ,

Rollercoaster of Love

I spent the morning on the phone with 4 different departments at HSBC, trying to rectify some late charges (and the inevitable credit report damage) that magically appeared on some bank statements. With each new department, I tried a new tactic. My personal favorite was the screaming match with Darsen Mashurash with the Select Credit Department. I had already spoken to his department earlier in the morning, and they told me I had to speak to the Checking Accounts Department. The Checking Accounts Department told me I had to speak with a "specialist" and then sent me to Darsen, back in the Select Credit Department. When he told me he had to transfer me to another department because "he wasn't authorized to speak with me about certain issues" I got to lay on the aggression. It can be very therapuetic, and it doesn't hurt that Darsen comes from a culture with a rigid caste/class system.

Once he got me through to Linda, I was able to resolve 90% of the problems. When we got off the phone, though, I needed to unwind. Wifey Kim just started up a load of laundry, so I knew we were staying home for at least another 90 minutes. And so, I fired up FullTilt.

This is really just a setup for one hand, the first hand I played in the tournament.

It was a two-table $22+2 Sit-N-Go, turbo. Everyone started with 1500 in chips. I was in the CO and was dealt KK. The rollercoaster began with a jolt of joy. KK in this spot is pretty sweet. The turbo structure will also encourage a bit of gambling.

Preflop, a player in EP minimum raises to 80 (20/40 blinds). A player to my immediate right called the 80. I decided to push all-in.

The overpush all-in in this situation is all about catching a player offguard. As long as I'm not facing AA (and it is much more likely I'm facing just about anything from KJ up or 44 up), I am going into the hand as a favorite. A lot of inferior, but strong hands may call in this situation, since my overpush seems weak, ironically. To the player with QQ, JJ, AK, AQ, or even TT or 99, my play might look like a weak attempt to pick up the pot with a vulnerable low pair or drawing high cards.

There's a bit of internal excitement at this point. I'm a tad nervous though, because I don't usually make that play and I'm uncertain if I overbet the pot and wasted an opportunity.

That nervousness gave way to a sense of joy with the initial min raiser calls. The other player folds and we show our cards. My KK vs. his...AA. Drop. FUCK!

Flop is all unders. FUCK! Turn is a K. JOY! River is a blank. And...relief.

God damn, I love this game.

Until next time, make mine poker!

So, I made my play and felt

posted by Jordan @ 11:43 AM, ,

First Sale

It looks like someone actually bought a $uperman t-shirt. It's not something I've actively pimped, but since there was actually a buyer out there, I'll just gently remind you that if you are interested in a $uperman t-shirt (or High on Poker t-shirt), the can be had via Zazzle and THIS LINK.

That is all.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 6:11 PM, ,

More College-Level Poker

After last weekend's trip to Buffalo for my fraternity's 10 year anniversary, I reconnected with some of the brothers with whom I had lost touch. Two brothers, Kennedy and Sajak, live about a block away from me in NYC. Kennedy mentioned that he runs a bi-monthly poker game, so I offered my services as a player if the need should arise. Yesterday was the first such game.

I'm playing poker tonight at the Wall Street Game, the weekly 1/2 game filled with Wall Street types, so I couldn't commit myself for a full evening of poker at Kennedy's. I have to show a modicum of decency and I like to spend some time with the wifey Kim. Fortunately, Kennedy was throwing some cheapo $20 buy-in tournaments, two to be exact, so I figured I could play in the first and leave before the second.

I forget sometimes that not every home game is as good as Jamie's Wall Street Game. When I arrived at the game, the host had already decided to move it from the Solarium, a public-use room in his building, to his apartment because of overcrowding in the Solarium. The result is that the 7 of us scattered around a coffee table, sitting on couches and whatever chairs were available. The cards were generic playing cards, the type you could get at any drug store (or worse, Dollar Store). In fact, after the first hand was dealt, I noticed a significant crease on the bottom left corner of my King of Spades. I also noticed some ink on the sides of the cards clearly placed by the casino after they chose to remove the cards from circulation. In any other environment, I might say something, but it was clear that this was a fun-time game with players who were still pretty green, so I didn't want to make too big of a deal over the sub-standard equipment.

The funny thing is, before heading over, I asked Kennedy if he needed anything. He said he had it all. I was thinking of grabbing a new deck of Copags (so much better than Kem cards), but who was I to argue. If he had everything, he had everything.

The play was fairly substandard, but it was a good group of guys and I was happy to have some fun. It was like being in a time machine and playing a game four years ago, when my friends were just learning the ropes. But the distance between me and my competitors came to the forefront after the following hand:

We had started with 55 chips and blinds of 1/2, a structure that paralleled my original home game structure except for the odd number of chips. Blinds were probably up to 2/4 already when I decided to raise preflop with JJ from the BB. There were already a bunch of limpers, but I got two callers and we saw a flop, QXX. I checked since I was out of position, and when it checked around, I was all but certain that no one had a Queen and I was ahead. The turn was an 8. I bet out and got one caller, a guy with glasses (we'll call him Glasses from here on out) who seemed to hesitate when the action got to him. The river came down a 9. It seemed harmless enough and I bet again. Glasses pushed all-in. I took my time, trying to get a handle on the action. I should've looked for physical tells, but instead, I was focused on the betting pattern. I spoke aloud, "I don't think you have the Queen, but did you get lucky and back into the straight?" I also had the feeling that he might have 99 or 88, and made his set post-flop. I counted out my chips and someone said, "You have him covered." I replied, "I'm not looking to see whether I have more than him. I want to see how much I'll have left when I fold." I then folded and showed my JJ. He showed 9T. He rivered second-pair and raised all-in. I just couldn't call him in that spot.

"Nice play," I replied. I was the picture of cool. After all, it was a nice play and a bit of a surprise from a player of less years and experience than me. I felt that this group of newbie-ish players could use some props for good play. It wouldn't take anything away from me, and it's good to keep your opponents happy.

Another player at the table chimed in, and this statement truly underscored for me the difference that a few years have made: "You're taking that very well." He motioned to his buddy who was already busted. "Check him out. He's still pissed."

And there it was, the main difference over all else. Experience has taught me to accept the fates that happen to us at the table. When I busted to MiamiDon in the Skillz game, I wasn't upset. When I folded to some rookie kid who made a "bad" raise all-in, I didn't tilt.

If poker has taught me patience than it is all worth it. Of course, I still find it annoying when I arrive at a game and they don't have top of the line experience, but, um, at least I'm getting pateint with the cards...

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 12:45 PM, ,

Secondary Skillz

Last night was the Skillz Game, one of the weekly blogger tournaments that make up the BBT4, or for you non-bloggers, the Battle of the Bloggers 4. The series of tournaments provide bloggers and readers an opportunity to compete not just for the usual prize pools but for a leaderboard awarding prizes for the top 20 spots and a tournament of champions made up of players who have won BBT events.

A couple of weeks ago, I won my seat into the ToC (tournament of champions) by winning the Mookie. Last night, on a lark, I decided to play the Skillz Game, which was Limit Hold'em this week, in an effort to make some more cash.

The leaderboard wasn't particularly on my mind because I still do not have a full grasp of it's importance. I don't plan on playing every event, so I figure that I will be severely handicapped compared to some of the other competitors. For instance, not including last night, I've played 5 events, still more than I expected. I'm currently in 27th place. However, none of the 26 players above me have played less than 8 games, and only two have played less than 10. That's not to say much of anything other than the fact that unless I cash or win each tournament I enter, I don't stand much chance for the big money spots on the leaderboard against players with 3x as many tourneys under their belts.

Limit Hold'em is an interesting game. It is the checkers to No Limit Hold'ems chess. Plays are finite, or as I liked to say during yesterday's tournament, "This is easy. I only have three buttons." That's Fold, Call, or Raise for you non-online poker players out there.

With limited betting, Limit Hold'em necessarily becomes about preflop hand selection because there are less opportunities to push opponents off of superior hands. That is not to say, however, that the correct strategy is to play tight. Several players at my earlier tables can attest to me doing some pretty aweful-looking things, like re-raising preflop with crap cards, but when the blinds are tiny compared to the stacks and the game is tournament Limit Hold'em, there is a decent amount of flopping around one can do in the early runnings without significantly damaging one's stack.

Another benefit, and in fact one that was crucial to me, was the fact that its hard to go broke on second-best hands, provided that the blinds are not too high. On two ocassions, I ended up with set under set. The first time, my QQ flopped a 9QK board, but I was facing KK. We capped (made the maximum bets) every street until I lost at showdown. In a NLHE game, we would've been all in on the flop, if not sooner. Later, my 44 flopped a set on a 489 board, only to lose to 99. Once again, it started off capping, but by the time we got to the big bets (post-turn and river), I had caught wind that I wasn't necessarily in the lead and check-called, saving myself some money. Once again, though, if it were NLHE, we'd likely be all-in on the flop.

I benefited once again in this game with my loose image. Repeatedly, players who knew my game decided to call me down when I was holding strong cards. To the untrained eye, that was luck; to someone viewing the entirety of the game, it was the early looseness paying off (or in a greater sense, it was my general reputation paying off). Of course, the relative limit on the amount my opponent could lose probably helped their decision making; but it also helped my play.

The number one factor, though, that helped me reach the final table and, as it were, end in second (to MiamiDon, to whom I say congrats), was my experience with short stack poker. The beginning of these limit tourneys are just crap. You can't really bust anyone and you can't even accumulate chips enough to make it worthwhile. You could literally sit out the first three levels and probably lose 0 equity. On the flipside, the game kicks into high gear as the blinds escalate and the stacks get comparatively shorter. That is when it is important to know who you can push around for one bet, and who is going to be pushing light. I've had a lot of experience with push-fold poker for a variety of reasons, but it paid off last night. At least it mostly paid off.

The HU battle with Don was tough. This is now the second time he's bested me heads up in a blogger tourney, the first time being a Mookie probably over a year ago. He had me outchipped from the get go, and then I saw a string of 8-or-under cards. 26, 85, 73, etc. It makes for a tough game, heads up. It took a while though, and Don finally got his win with the hammer, no less. His 72o actually had me beat preflop. I was so short, I ended up pushing with 63o.

Rumor has it, there is a prize for being atop the leader board for the month of March. I don't know if that's true, but if so, I should probably play the Mookie tonight. It'll be a gametime decision though, because even with everything, I'm not in this thing for the points. I'm in it for the poker (and, of course, the cash).

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 9:47 AM, ,

College-Level Poker

This weekend was my fraternity's 10 year anniversary. It was founded when I was but a sophomore in college, a way for 22 independent guys to meet impressionable sorority girls without first subjecting ourselves to 12 weeks of overtly homosexual activities to prove our mettle.

Ten years is a long time, so my return to Buffalo saw some significant changes. Technology, for one, has advanced at an alarming rate. Whereas me and my buddies had a crappy TV and crappier computer, and barely any cell phones until junior or senior years, the current crop of college students have huge flat screen TVs, high speed everythings, and cell phones that can do more than everything in my assorted college living quarters during my four year tenure. Things that haven't changed are the simple fact that college kids love drinking to excess, are willing to live in shit holes, and are relatively broke, their expensive technology notwithstanding.

A weekend up in Buffalo can be rather tight, if you do it right. I flew up Friday evening, arriving at about 10:30 pm. After dropping off our stuff at the fleabag motel ("Do you want the blood-soaked bed or the cum-soaked bed?"), my crew headed down to the South Campus fraternity house and then the bar scene. I eventually made it back to our motel at about 5am. Poker and fraternity events are the only things capable of keeping me up that late nowadays.

The next morning, as I awoke spooning a cockroach approximately the size of wifey Kim, I tried to plan my day. Another change in Buffalo over the last 10 years is the introduction of poker to the nearby Canadian casinos and the new American casino, also with poker. I had decided to make a trip there, but I also had a couple of other necessary errands.

First was Duff's, the best Buffalo wings in the city. Anchor Bar may claim the fame of being the inventor of Buffalo wings, but Duff's is the place responsible for perfecting the wings. Of course, greasy wings aren't the best breakfast after a night of drinking, but that didn't stop us.

After breakfast, my crew headed to the campus book store to buy some UB paraphenalia. Once that was done, it was already 2pm, and with a formal event scheduled to start at 6pm, the reality hit. There was no time for a casino run.

Figure the casino was 30 minutes away, give or take. Then, once arriving, I'd have to get on a list. It was not unthinkable that I'd have to wait at least 30 minutes if not an hour. I'd also need some time to get dressed for the 6pm event. Long story short, it just wasn't going to happen.

But that's not to say that I didn't play poker. I ended up heading down to the fraternity house, where a couple of college-kid degenerates were setting up a small stakes cash game. The trip was as much about hanging out as it was anything else, so I decided to join them.

The level of play was pretty aweful. Let's just get that out of the way. After all, these weren't card sharks. These were poor college kids, and poker was simply gambling to them. It was shorthanded, maybe 7 players at most, and players would routinely play bad hands and be shocked that their A6o didn't hit. One player called large raises with two over cards, KJ, on the flop and turn, folding on the river, justifying his play by stating that it was crazy that he didn't hit.

Of course, with a $20 buy-in and .25/.50 blinds, there wasn't much damage I could do. At one point, I was up well over a buy-in, but I ended up losing a chunk when I decide to bluff a hand in position after a preflop raise and got called down by a player who hit trips with on a 877 board with J7o in his hand. Lemon.

By the time the game was over, I was up $8, not too shabby for a $20 buy-in. Still, it was peanuts.

That night, the actual 10 year anniversary dinner was held, after which we all headed to a nearby bar, eventually returning back to one of the fraternity houses around 2am. A bunch of the guys were hanging out, and one in particular was looking to get a game of limit Omaha going. Naturally, I was game.

The main problem with the setup was that we were in a frat house, surrounded by over a dozen drunken college kids and alumni. That makes for a decent amount of noise and activity, but we cleared off a space at the kitchen table and began to work out the game. I was expecting to play heads up with the game's instigator, an ironically-named Romeo, an alumni grad student who now served as the fraternity's advisor. It was clear he was jonesing for a game and nothing but Omaha would do. I was okay with this, and I expected it to be just the two of us, but a fellow alumni, Maverick, and a visiting friend, Jeremy, decided to join us as well.

I had a bad feeling about this game, and it got worse and worse as the rules were established. All four of us had been drinking, so first off, it was going to be sloppy poker. Second, Mav and Jeremy had never played Omaha before, so I had to teach them the game. I hate playing against newbies like this because either you win and feel like you are fleecing them, or you lose and look the fool. Since the players were inexperienced, Hi/Lo was out of the question. I thought if it was heads-up with the poker-minded Romeo, we could play whatever we want and probably get decent stakes. But with the newbies, we agreed to limit, which can minimize the effect of mistakes. We also had to find our stakes. To make matters worse, we had all had a long day of spending money, and Mav only had $5 on him. I refused to play for penny stakes. Quite frankly, it just wouldn't be worth the time, since I would have just as much fun partying with the rest of the house. But alas, Mav was able to borrow $20 from someone and we settled on 1/2 limit.

Long story short, I was the first one to bust, and I was never happier to bust in my life. The game felt like work, not fun. I didn't care about winning and I couldn't get a handle on the newbies, who were still learning the game and playing poorly as a result. I remember when I busted, there wasn't a moment's hesitation. I just got up and walked away. No rebuying. Just walk.

A little while later, while hanging on the couch with other brothers, I heard my pal and fellow alumni Orko asking me to rejoin the game. They had since switched to Hold'em and Orko was hoping to play some with me. After all, he knew about my poker degeneracy, so I guess there is something novel to play with the poker freak. It didn't hurt that Orko grew up with my little brother Dave (genetic, not fraternity little brother) and we knew each other a long time. I'm sure that worked into the dynamic. Whatever the case, I surveyed the table and rejected the offer several times. "Come on, man," Orko was insistent. I leaned in close to him, "It just wouldn't be fun for me. Trust me, man. I'm not playing."

I didn't want to say it at the time, but the real tipping point, beyond the low stakes and distracted game, was the buy-in. A $20 buy-in is fine and good, but not when everyone is buying in with $20 bills and no one has change. Since it's a cash game, cashing out was going to be a real chore and I didn't want to play only to find out that we couldn't get paid out because of the lack of small bills. It was a deal breaker for me, but I refused to announce that reason to the table. After all, they were just looking to have fun, and I didn't want to be the guy to point out that the game was going to have problems when it was completed.

That was the entirety of poker on this trip. A small cash NLHE game in the afternoon and a couple of rounds of limit Omaha in the late evening. It was a far cry from my plans to hit the casinos and fleece some college kids and Canadians, but it had to do. I guess not every trip can be about the poker.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 12:27 PM, ,

Water Level

"Water seeks its own level and so do poker players." - Doyle Brunson

It's rare that I will start off a post with a quote, but that one from Doyle really hit home. As a player starting out at the micro limits online (literally .10 tournaments), I appreciate the fact that it takes a lot of hard work or dedication to make the climb up the poker ladder. I've been stalled at the live 1/2 NLHE stage for some while now, as much a product as my fear of losing money as my lack of opportunity to play live. Sometimes I think I should force myself to try the next game up, 2/5 NLHE. I've played that game on only one or two ocassions that I can recall offhand. Then I remember the juiciness of the 1/2 games, where you get the least experienced (and consequently worst) players, and I generally stick to the ole 1/2. But Doyle's quote offers some food for thought, and maybe it's time I find my own level or accept that for now, it's 1/2.

The last time I played 2/5 was in Buffalo. I was in the town of my alma mater with wifey Kim for a speech therapy conference. It's the same excuse we are using to go down to New Orleans this November, if all goes according to plan. After dropping her off at her conference, I headed to one of the new American casinos, located at Niagara Falls. The 1/2 table had a max buy-in of $100 and the 2/5 had a max buy-in of $300. Since I was comfortable with a $300 buy-in (that's the usual buy-in for 1/2 games in Atlantic City), I opted for the higher game.

I had to actually go back and read my trip report to check the results. +$338. It's comparable to a decent 1/2 session. Of course, that's just one sample, and a sample does not a trend make.

This all leads me to this weekend. It's my fraternity's 10 Year Reunion. Long story short, back in college, my good buddy Jefe asked if I wanted to start a fraternity with him. He had already gotten together a group of likeminded individuals. I said yes, the fraternity was put together, and ten years later, it's now stronger than ever.

So this weekend, and in fact, in a few hours, I'm heading to Buffalo to drink with some old buddies and, if all goes well, play some poker. My little brother (in real life, not fraternity-speak) Dave was also in the fraternity, so we are going up together. I already warned him that Saturday morning, I intend to disappear.

Here's how I envision it. Hung over from drinking tonight, I wake up on the early side, perhaps 9 or 10am, drive to the casino, play for two to four hours, and then meet up with everyone. Some of the fraternity brothers are throwing a home game tourney, which also is appealing, but the stakes are college-kid stakes, $20 buy-in. I'm not adverse to those stakes, and I'll hopefully make their game as well as play in the casino, but I am really looking forward to some sweet poker action.

My love for poker, now five years plus into our love affair, just does not abate. I am heading back to college, the land of cheap booze and loose women, and the only thing on my mind is getting back into the 2/5 game.

I'm sure when I started this, I had some more organized thoughts going through my head. So much for that. But since poker is calling, I'll just cut this short.

Have a great weekend everyone. Wish me luck.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 4:27 PM, ,

Profile of a Champeen

One of the greatest things about winning the Mookie last week is the Champion Profile that Mookie does for each winner. My first Champion Profile is HERE, but since the second one asked for my 10 Favorite Poker Blogs, I figured it wouldn't hurt to cross-post the second profile here. Enjoy.

Q: Name your Top Ten list of poker blogs.

HoP: In no particular order…

BWOP- What is there not to like about CK’s blog? She predominantly plays live poker, prefers non-Hold’em games, and lives in Vegas (we miss you in NY). Plus, if she were to be in a tag team with her boyfriend, F-Train, the tag team would still come in at a collective weight of under 200 lbs. Bonus points for being an Asian Jew. But really, content is king, and BWOP has the perfect mix of poker and non-poker content.

F-Train- The other half of the dynamic duo, I love F-Train’s blog because he’s currently traveling the poker tournament circuit and his blog posts give a glimpse into the life of a traveling poker journalist. F-Train is a really smart guy, and his posts are often thoughtful and well thought out. Double bonus points for dating an Asian Jew.

SirFWalGman- Don’t act surprised. He’s on your favorites list, too. I don’t just love Woffles blog for the rants; I love it because he posts consistently and he has an opinion. He’s also a funny guy with an acerbic wit. If there is a new post by Woffles, I’m reading it. All this praise, and the prick still can’t spell my name right and refuses to link to me whenever he does mention me. Prick.

Wall Street Poker- I didn’t realize how NY-centric my blog reading is, but that really shouldn’t be a surprise. Regardless, Jamie’s blog is fantastic. He’s constantly traveling around the US to play poker, writes detailed trip reports, and has fairly regular content. He also writes about his regular home game, which has enough crazy characters for three blogs. Great writing by a great poker host.

Terrence “Not Johnny” Chan- Terrence Chan’s blog is great. He updates regularly, fights and trains for MMA, and plays the live poker tournament circuit. Once again, the key to Chan’s blog is not the deep analysis of poker play, but rather his engaging opinions and storytelling. Whether he is writing a trip report for a vacation in Southeast Asia, handicapping an MMA match, or recounting the story of a tournament, he makes for a good read.

Al Cant Hang- What’s not to love about the One Man Party? I’ve had a few ocassions where I was able to hang with Al, and all I can say is that as great as he is in his blog, he’s even better in person. Al’s blog is a fun read every time. Plus, if you ever need info on a blogger event, it’s a good first blog to check.

Astin Cubed- If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m not so into the strategy blogs. I don’t mind some strategy, but I really enjoy reading about people and their experiences. Astin fits well into that category. You can get a real sense of the kind of guy Astin is by his posts. He’s also one helluva cook, and I’ve personally stolen some of his recipes. Man, that sounds gay. Whatever. Keep doing your thing, Astin.

Riggstad’s Nut Straight- The thing about reading Rigg’s posts are, I feel like I’m getting insider information. He rubs elbows with some of the powers that be in Atlantic City, and he’s a knowledgeable guy all around. I’ve seen him in action, and he just exudes a certain amount of confidence and ability to get the job done that I have only seen in a few people. His blog is often insightful, and always worth a read.

PokerGrump- Content is king, and Grump produces more than his share of content. While I’m happy to skip the Guess the Casino posts, the vast majority of his posts are relatively short tales from his time as a 1/2 NLHE grinder in Vegas. He really lets the readers feel that they, too, are spending all their time going from casino to casino collecting dough and wacky stories. I openly envy that freedom and lifestyle and I thank Grump for letting me live vicariously through him, one post at a time.

My Peoples- This is a bit BS, but I’m combining GCox, TripJax, and Schaubs as three guys who I follow not only for their blogs but because I sincerely like them on a personal level. There are a lot more out there, but GCox and TripJax stand out as the guys who really got me into the whole blogging/online poker thing, and sometimes reading and chatting with Schaubs amazes me, since we come from such different places but share the same values and opinions. All three are good friends. I’d encourage them to write more, but the natural ebb and flow of blogging has to take its natural course. GCox now writes more about hunting than poker, Tripjax writes more about booze than anything, and Schaubs is all over the place but his love for golf is always apparent.

Go check these blogs out. Sure, they’ll ruin your workplace productivity, but if you are reading this right now, that’s probably your M.O.

Q: What makes you happier, a positive ROI in donkaments, or an actual tournament win? (Submitted by Heffmike)

HoP: Frankly, a win. I don’t keep track of my ROI online, but nothing beats the satisfaction of the pop-up screen telling you that you won the tournament and are awarded $____ for your efforts.

Until my next Mookie win, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 4:22 PM, ,

The Best and the Rightest

Holy Chowder! My corporate overlords are really pounding away at me today, but I still find a bit of time for you good people. God bless me.

I mentioned briefly in my last post about how PirateLawyer and I were chatting about a hand that went down in the Mookie. The conversations started when he asked if I would have played the hand any different from his perspective. There was some back and forth, but in the end, the answer I gave was simply, If he could explain the reasons behind his play, then it was justifiable. This simple explanation is a cornerstone to my thoughts on poker and probably a reason why hand history strategy is becoming less and less of a focus here at HoP and generally across the blogiverse.

In the early days, I thought there was a perfect path in every hand. I have since learned that this is just not true. In fact, it is SO untrue that the act of discerning the "right" play in a given situation has largely become a fool's errand to me. It's not to say that in particular situations the best play isn't clear. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in most situations, there is a "best" play. But "best" does not equal the totalitarian idea of "right" as in, "You called a raise with T8?! That's wrong!" I am okay, however, with the general statement, "You called a raise with T8? That's probably not the best play."

Sure, it seems like splitting hairs, but I think it's a very important distinction. This isn't really about the PL hand specifically, but let's use it, since it's a decent example.

The major sequence worth examining was the preflop play. PL had over 100k and was the chip leader with 6 players left. We were already in the money. Blinds were 800/1600, with an ante. Three players had shorter stacks of between 20k and 30k. One other opponent and I had stacks around 50k to 60k. PL, in the CO (I think), min-raised from 1600 to 3200. Everyone folded to me in one of the blinds (SB, I think), who raised to 14,400, for an additional 9200. PL called and we saw a flop.

That's the only sequence of events you need to know, and there are only two actions by PL to examine: (1) the preflop min-raise and (2) the call after facing a 3x re-raise (or is it considered 6x since he only min raised for 1600 more...anyone?). Let's break it down.

(1) The Prelop Min-Raise. Taken in a vacuum, if I said, "Is it good to min-raise with T8s preflop?" you may recommend a fold instead. Let's add more info. "There are 6 players left, I'm the big stack with almost 2x the chips of the second place player, and I'm in late position. Is it good to min-raise with T8s?" Suddenly, it's not as bad. Add some more facts, "I think the players are starting to tighten up to move up the pay ladder." Great, the play is even better now. And so on and so forth. But even if we are convinced that the min-raise with T8s is a decent play or even the best play in that scenario, can we ever determine if it is the "right" play. The answer is no. The answer is that the best play in that scenario is to fold sometimes and raise other times. That transcends the information we've gathered. Even knowing that you will likely win down the pot uncontested, it still doesn't mean that 100% of the time, you should min-raise there. Why? Because if you did things the same way every single time, you'd be a predictable robot and your opponents would eventually adapt and beat your ass. There must be a certain amount of variability in every situation.

Let me make it even more obvious. Is there ever a time to limp in EP with AA? Yes, if you feel confident that you will face a raise and then have an opportunity to re-raise. BUT, even under that scenario, you shouldn't always limp, right? Sometimes, you should bet out. You might be able to identify the BEST play, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is the RIGHT play and that all other plays are WRONG.

(2) Calling the Raise Preflop. At first glance, I thought that this was PL's mistake. Right? After all, what would you say to a guy who gave you this info: "I min-raised preflop, faced a significant re-raise from my opponent, and all I had was T8s. I called. Was that wrong?" I'd say, "Hell yes, dude. VERY VERY WRONG." But I'd be wrong, because there is more to poker than cookie cutter decision-making based on cards. It's about feel. And, it's about different paths. No one would blame a player for folding T8s, but if that player can set forth the reason for their play and their play actually coincides with the reason provided, then how can it be wrong. It might not be how you do it, but you don't get to dictate how other people play and as I already mentioned, with poker, there are many paths to success.

Here are legitimate individual reasons (which can, and probably should, be combined for extra justification!) for the call in this situation: (i) you are in position and will be able to act with knowledge of the flop and your opponents' reaction to the flop when you next have to act, (ii) your opponent is a loose donk and could be playing ATC, (iii) your opponent is one of the best at the table and if you can bust him, the rest of the tournament will be a cakewalk, (iv) you expect to be able to put pressure post-flop on your opponent because he's going to be extra-cautious going all-in due to the many shorties, etc., etc., and so forth.

My point is simply this: There are no hard, fast rules of poker. If you have a plan in place and the plan is legitimate and your actions fit within your plan and advance it, then you made a justifiable play. It may not be the best play, but I can't call it the wrong play just because I had a different plan in place.

In the end, this doesn't really negate the importance of hand analysis. It just puts things in a different light. Even when you don't agree with a play, it doesn't mean that it was a bad one. It was just different than what you would have done. And you aren't wrong necessarily either, as long as you can justify your logic. Let's go back to the AA example.

One guy can say, "Never limp preflop with AA, because you run too high of a chance of having too many players in the pot. Even if the other players are likely to raise preflop, you can't guarantee that, and at a table like that, you are likely to get a caller or two anyway with a preflop raise, so it's not like you are losing all value in the hand." That strategy is a sound one. The main goal is to get money into the pot but avoid a situation with too many opponents. By raising preflop, his actions fit and advance his goals.

The other guy says, "You are throwing free money away by raising and you just might end up with a bunch of callers anyway! Just limp. At this table, someone will raise, likely after some limpers, and you may get calls on that raise too, and then you can re-raise big and take down the sizeable pot right away or narrow the field to maybe one other player." That's not a bad strategy too. It has more risk of ending up in a multiway pot if you don't get an opportunity to re-raise preflop, but some players don't mind that risk. And, it's actually a small risk, since little money is put in the pot from your chip stack in that scenario. This player's goal is clearly to win the pot preflop or narrow the field while pumping the pot. His play matches his goal and advances it, and therefore is legitimate.

Maybe this wasn't the most elegant explanation, but the key is that there are more than one justifiable play in most situations, even when there are the same conditions. It's all about the individual goal and style of the person making the decision.

In poker, there are often no Right Answers. Are there Best Answers? Sure, most of the time. But sometimes that Best Answer is to raise 90% of the time and limp 10% of the time, and really, how many of us are willing to answer a simple question of "Did I play this right?" by suggesting the percentages of how to play it.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 5:15 PM, ,

Mookie Recap

With Mookie Win #2 in the bag, I figure at least a little recap is warranted. I didn't keep hand histories and I don't particularly remember much of the details of the tournament, but I do remember the broad strokes.

After another long day at the office, I seriously doubted that I was going to play the Mookie. Instead, when I got home and finished cooking dinner (spinach and panko crusted chicken cutlets with feta-cheese twice baked potatoes) I figured I would play a 45-person SNG. I decided to pay attention and go for the win, instead of half-assing it as I am prone to do. I should've half-assed it. About halfway through the tournament, I made a misread in a blind vs. blind confrontation. I held T9 on the J98 flop and didn't believe my opponent's bet. I re-raised all-in and he called, showing AJ. No straight for me and I was out.

That sucked donkey balls, but what sucked worse was the stream of shitty television wifey Kim had settled down to watch. Desperate Housewives is actually a pretty decent show, but it is infinitely better when I'm playing online poker at the same time. The same could be said for American Idol or any number of shows I can sit through with the wife and my laptop.

It was probably 30 to 60 minutes later when I decided that I would, in fact, play the Mookie. I signed in, signed up, and then signed up for the 9:45 Token Frenzy. By 10pm, I was two tabling.

My goal in the Mookie was to play smart, cautious poker. I was trying to figure out the best strategy against bloggers, as opposed to the usual player. It's a very basic thing to do. The usual MTT (multi-table tournament) player and the blogger MTT player are different breeds of animal, so changing tactics should be standard. I just hadn't thought about that fact in a long while.

If you don't think that regular MTTs and blogger MTTs are different, just take a look at the list of bustouts after one hour at the Mookie. It was easily less than 10% of the field. In a regular MTT, you can count on a MUCH larger percentage to have busted out by then.

So what does it all mean? Well, the most noticeable thing is that the blogging community is a lot tighter in these games, probably moreso than usual because of the allure of the BBT4, points and all. So, I decided to look for spots to loosen up. I wasn't just going to loosen up. I was going to pick my spots carefully, because while the group is tight, it's also aggressive.

I stayed even early, not making much waves. I had busted from the Token Frenzy at some point early in the Mookie and decided to not open any other tournaments. That's not to say that I didn't play distracted. Wifey Kim eventually put on The City, a terrible spinoff to the atrocious The Hills. I couldn't even stand to stay in the same room with that claptrap, so I headed into the bedroom where I...sorted wifey Kim and my documents drawer. Basically, while playing online poker, I went over our leases, insurance, etc. organizing as I went. It was a boring chore to do, but online poker makes it slightly more bearable. During this time, I had already chipped up a bit to about 5.5k, before dropping back down to the 4k region. I was pretty much back to playing tight after taking a couple of stabs earlier to gather my stack.

This post seems to be more about everything I did while doing the Mookie. You can add the dishes to that list. Yep, I took the laptop into the kitchen and emptied the dishwasher, replacing the clean dishes with the dirty ones in the sink. All while folding, checking and raising. Multi-tasking at its best.

And then finally, at about 11pm, I sat down and I played poker. Real poker. Just me and the Mookie. I began paying attention to my opponents a bit more (I was doing it throughout, but now I was without distractions...if you don't count the fact that I was also listening to Howard Stern). I had some fortunate cards, AA a couple of times, KK a few times when it mattered, and managed to catapult my way to a large stack. Of course, the majority of my chips came from one particular player who shall remain actually nameless. I had been keeping an eye on her play and her looseness made me salivate. She sat two seats to my right. When she raised preflop, I could call light or even better, re-raise and take down the pot immediately. I felt so in tune to her play that it was a cakewalk. I even said as much in a brief chat with 23Skidoo.

By the time we were nearing the final table bubble, my personal ATM was long gone. I had a good read on my table and I played accordingly. It was that simple. It helped that we were 6-handed and then 5-handed. I play best in shorthanded games, so I took advantage of the situation by betting hard when opportunities arose, which happens rather often with so few competitors.

I don't remember all of the details, but I think by the final table, I was no longer the big stack that I once was. Most of the remaining players had caught up, and I was no one of the shorter stacks, although I still had my fair share of blinds. I played my way up the ladder, actually tightening up and getting paid off on some solid hands. Every once in a while, I would go on betting tares, raising 4 or 5 hands in a row, usually successful. Eventually, I found we were back to six-handed play and I was a middle-stack. I continued to attack the table, trying to take advantage of the shorthanded play. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. One thing I made sure of, though, was that I was never putting too much of my stack in play unless I was very strong.

I have been discussing one hand in particular with PirateLawyer all day, so its the one hand that I actually recall quite vividly. PL was the chip leader with over 100k. One player was in the 60s, I had somewhere north of 50k, and the three remaining players had between 20-30k. I was in one of the blinds and PL opened the betting with a min-raise to 3200 (blinds of 800/1600 with an ante). I held KK, so I naturally raised to 12,400. He called. The flop was KT8 with two diamonds. I led out with a 16,000 bet, leaving me with about 24k behind. I was trying to make it appear like I was going for a continuation bet...and that I was perserving chips in case I needed to fold to a re-raise. All of the theatrics, though, were unnecessary, as PL had flopped bottom two pair with his T8. He re-raised all-in, I called, and my top set held up, bringing me a hefty 100k+ stack.

That's not the end of the story. As we got down to four players, I was no longer the big dog. That honor had moved to cardgrrl. Meanwhile, we had one shorty left around 20k and Heffmike was still in it with a stack close to mine. The shorty busted and my stack continued to dwindle. Details elude me, but Heff took out grrl and we were heads up.

Let's backtrack for a bit, because now I see that Heffmike has posted another hand in which I was fortunate to have KK at the right time. I will say without shame that I had KK a fair amount of times last night. Besides the PL hand, above, and the Heff hand, below, I probably saw KK two more times over the course of the tournament.

The Heff hand happened when we still had 9 players. I was down to somewhere in the 24k range and was dealt KK in either LP or a blind (it was all preflop this hand, so the point is I had position preflop...and it fell into my lap). TwoBlackAces was a shortstack and pushed all-in for his small 3k stack. Heff pushed all-in after him for way more than I had. It was a no-brainer, so I called all-in. TBA had A7o, Heff had JJ, and I had KK. Easy moneys. That was what brought me to the 50k+ stack and the hand against PL.

Heads up, Heffmike started with a decent lead, his 209k to my 84k. As Heff mentions in his post, at one point he had me down to a 1:6 deficit, but I kept fighting back. I love HU play, so I felt that this was my time to shine. Ironically, Heff thinks that he was in control for the most part (as per his post), but I felt the same way. Even though I was playing the shortie, I wasn't willing to be pushed around. I also wasn't willing to make light plays with the hope that he didn't have it or I could get lucky. I just played solid, uber-aggressive heads up poker. Probably most importantly, though, I wore down Heff, and once I caught wind of the fact that he was losing patience, I had enough information for those previously dangerous calls. For instance, I raised preflop with A8, he re-raised me all-in, and I called. He had King-high and I doubled up, still a far cry from even with him. But it didn't stop there. It seemed that whenever I picked off his all-ins, he was carrying a dominated hand. I called all-in preflop with A8 vs. Heff's A4, giving me the lead. I finally took him out when I raised with KTo and he pushed all-in for 95k more. That's no small potatoes, but I already knew my opponent was playing light, so I made the call, expecting to have two live cards, hoping to be ahead, and praying that I wasn't dominated. He had T9, and that's all there was to it.

It was a long HU game, and a couple of times, I felt myself slipping into awfukkit mode, but that never made it onto the keyboard. I just kept refocusing myself when needed and made my plays cautiously and with a set game plan.

After winning, it was already 2:15am, if not later. Man, these tourneys are a bitch for an East Coaster's schedule. Sleeping post-poker is not easy, so I headed to bed, where wifey Kim had been sleeping for hours, and put on my headphones, listening to Howard for a bit before turning it off and attempting to sleep in earnest. It's never easy to sleep after a poker session, but its slightly easier if you leave a winner.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 1:51 PM, ,

A Gift

posted by Jordan @ 2:11 AM, ,

HoP's Fourth Birthday

I'm going to go pin a tail on a donkey. In the meanwhile, enjoy some cake.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 10:49 PM, ,

Week's Wrapup

Ever since this weekend, I've been exhausted.

Saturday night was wifey Kim's 30th birthday. Since she's a twin, it was also bro-in-law Marc's 30th birthday. The plan was to have a birthday party for both of the Wonder Twins at a bar in NYC called Mason Dixon. It's a country-themed bar with a lot of space and a bucking bronco for entertainment.

Men, if you want to meet women in NYC, go directly to the nearest Crumbs Bakery, order 50 cupcakes and walk around just about anywhere. Crumbs' containers are clear plastic, and their bags are clear plastic too. Amazingly, cupcakes work better than puppies. On my short 5 minute walk from bakery to home, every single female I passed had to make a comment. Two cute chicks were coming out of a deli when they saw me walk by with a plethora of cupcakes. "Can I have one?", the cute one said. The other one added, "What are they for?" I answered, "My wife's birthday...gotta go!" Yeah, not so much a lethario. The other highlight was the 40-ish crazy lady who looked at the bag with wild eyes and asked several times, "Where are you going with those ice creams?" (And yes, she referred to the cupcakes as ice creams, with ice creams in the plural.) With her crazy eyes, I just tucked my head down and kept moving.

Drinking got the best of me and I was exhausted all day Sunday. Of course, that Friday, wifey Kim and I, along with her whole family, were invited to a quickie wedding scheduled for Sunday night. We assumed it was a ceremony and a small dinner, since the bride was knocked up and everything was last minute. In reality, the family had somehow planned a complete 7 hour Sunday night wedding, complete with a Cabaret Show at the oddest Russian wedding venue I'd ever been to. It was like being at a hybrid wedding/foreign variety show. I expected a drunk bear to come out on a tricycle wearing a fez at any moment. Just surreal.

Yeah, so I'm exhausted.

It doesn't help that I am just starting a big trial and have two more trials ready to go. In the life of a litigation attorney, you really don't try many cases. The vast majority settle. If I have 3 cases going to trial from my case load all year, it's a lot. To have three this month with another one or two coming is a fuckton. But a man's gotta do.

What else does a man gotta do? Play poker, of course. So last night, exhausted from a long day at the office, I arrived at the weekly 1/2 NLHE (no limit hold'em) Wall Street Poker game. We started off shorthanded with 6 players, which to me is an absolute dream. There is just so much more game to be played with less players. I really cannot comprehend the players who will not play unless the table is full (not that there was anyone like that last night). I figure it makes sense if you are super tight, since the more players at a table, the more hand selection matters. But who the hell wants to play super tight poker? Not me. Any of you feel this way?

I found a new seating groove, which is nice. It used to be standard that I'd sit to Bakini Mary's right. Since Bakini is so tight, I like her on my left, since I don't have to worry about what she's doing. 9 times out of 10, she's folding and the other time, I'm folding. She wasn't there, though, so I opted for a seat to the immediate left of Sean, one of the regular 1/2 players at the WSG. Keep in mind, the WSG's 1/2 game is slightly different than most of the games there, since it was designed around some corporate guys. These corporate types tend to give more action and, quite frankly, are not as good as some of the lower-stakes players at the WSG.

Shawn and I get along very well. We both have an unhealthy knowledge of shitty movies and a sarcastic sense of humor. I've also learned his game quite well. I'm praying that he doesn't read here, because I don't want to give it away, but I sincerely think I have him pegged. I alternatively knew when I had to check it down because he was slowplaying his K8 on the KKx board and when to get more chips out of him through bet sizing when I flopped a set and turned a river.

With his play pegged, I merely had to figure out the rest of the table. Since I'd played with most of them before, it wasn't too difficult. Of course, it also helped that I was getting paid out when I made hands and had the intelligence and patience to fold when card dead. Here are some of my better hands:

In one of the first hands, I was dealt 44 and limped. A late position player raised to $7 and there was one or two calls before me, including Sean, so I decided to call.

The flop was Q74, rainbow (i.e., three different suits), so I had hit my set immediately. Sean checked, I checked, and the preflop raiser bet $15. I expected a continuation bet, hence my check with my set. Sean called and I decided to call as well. I didn't want to push anyone out of the pot since very few hands scared me. The turn was a low card, maybe 5 or 6, and Sean checked. I checked as well, hoping that the preflop raiser would take the bait, but he correctly checked. The river was another 7, giving me the full house. Sean bet out $23 and I raised to $55. The preflop raiser folded and Sean took a while before begrudgingly calling. When I showed my full house, he mucked. Easy moneys.

I had some more easy money when I was dealt AA. I decided to raise preflop to $10 from EP. A player two seats to my left had joined the game fairly recently and opted to call. I don't remember this guy's name, but he had been at the game once before. As I recalled, he did not have much money on him last time and seemed very tentative about playing as high as 1/2 NLHE. He seemed to have the same vibe this time. The guy was in his 30s, most likely, slightly overweight and bald, with the whole horseshoe hair thing going. By the way, guys, if you are going bald, just shave your head. Trust me. He was reminiscing with Jamie about how Jamie's home game started with $10 tournaments, which used to be the highlights of everyone's week. It was clear that in all that time, Baldy had gotten rusty, assuming he ever was very comfortable with the game.

So, Baldy calls as done, you guessed it, Sean. We saw a flop, 653 with two clubs. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. Sean checked and I bet $25. To my surprise, Baldy came over the top for another $35 or so, all-in. To my bigger surprise, Sean called.

"SHIT," I thought. I may've said it too. My biggest concern was that someone played 66 and got lucky. Still, I could easily see the weak Baldy playing an overpair to the board, which I obviously had beat. Sean called, which was confusing, but if he was strong, he would've re-re-raised. I opted to call, and for safety sake, checked it down. In hindsight, I should've bet the turn, because Sean was apparently on a draw (although not the flush draw). At showdown, I took down the pot. Baldy had 77, so he had an overpair, but barely. Easy moneys.

I had AA one more time. There was a $5 straddle and one caller, so I raised to $20, getting two callers, including Sean. I continuation bet the Qxx flop for $55 and took it down. I hit a set of 6s once, and got paid off as well, although it never reached showdown.

After amassing a bunch of chips, I went utterly card dead. I was never happier to be card dead. I had already announced that I was leaving early, at 9pm. I was so tired from Court and partying from the weekend, even though it was several days later. Finally, at 9, I cashed out, up $320. I said my goodbyes and returned home.

This has been a great year so far. I'm almost reached my total profit last year in the first two months of this year. I still need to get in more play at higher limits, but at least I'm feeling my groove.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 11:53 AM, ,

Saving Heroes


With Julius Goat having seemingly quit the Heroes-recap business (all for good reason, too), there is a lack of good TV commentary out there in the poker blogodome. You won't find any of that here. Lord knows I don't have the skills or self-hate to take on the task of recapping Heroes as it continues to shed viewers and any semblence of good writing. But I do have some general insight into the show, so I might as well toss in my two pesos.

The problem with Heroes is the same problem that faces many a comic book. After a while, once you've established the characters and relationships and had some reveals, a comic can easily fall into a creative rut. Continuity is ignored (so, for instance, in the first half of last season Mohinder found a cure for the powers, but in the second half, he laments how he did not have any luck finding a cure and suddenly wants to help proliferate powers?!) and storylines get rehashed over and over (how many times is someone going to paint a prophetic vision of an nuclear mushroom?!). But the solutions to Heroes' creative rut can also be found in comic books, as well as by looking back at what Heroes originally was.

Make no mistake about it, the cast of Heroes was never supposed to be. The original idea was to have each season as entirely distinct stories focusing on how real people deal with the development of super powers. That's why season 1 was so great. It was exciting to see how Hiro actually learned to control time, or unravel the mystery of what happened when Nicki blacked out and woke up to a bunch of dead guys in the room. This was a chance to see real people in extraordinary situations, and some of them embraced it (Hiro) while others fell apart (Nicki). If all went according to plan, the entire cast would basically either be released or used in lesser roles in the next season, during which we could introduce a whole new group of super powered real people.

Unfortunately (or not, depending on who you are), the case actually became breakout stars when the show first came out, so the studio decided not to mess with a proven formula. Suddenly, it wasn't a show about real people dealing with powers, but the interconnectedness of these particular characters. Eventually, it felt like everyone had powers, and that just plain sucked. The excitement of the show was that it felt real and as everyone developed powers (Mohinder for one, then Ando, and later BS coincidences like Sylar accidentally kidnapping a boy with microwave powers who coincidentally he lived next door to Sylar's intended target), the show felt less about a real world with a few special people and more about a pulp comic.

The other side effect was that when you have a (formerly) beloved cast, no one can die. When you anticipate new casts every year, you can kill people willy nilly without the need to bring them back to life in contrived ways (HRG, Daphne, etc.). Instead, death matters, and we are closer to feeling that these impossible characters exist in a possible world.

So, how can the show be fixed? I have two suggestions, one of which comes from something I read early on about the intended trajectory of the show and one that is based on natural development of the storyline as it exists.

Very early on in the show's existence, I read that Season 2 (or maybe 3) was going to be called Generations and would focus on the prior generation of Heroes. This should be Plan A. Set an entire season in the past. You can start with a whole new cast, bring in Hiro for a couple of cameos or an episode, and show what happened in the 1970s and earlier when the group that would eventually create The Company first came together. It would be like the intended feel of the show, with a new cast every season to explore what it is like to develop unworldly powers in the real world. It would be connected to the past storylines as a prequel, and it could explain how things degenerated to the point that they did in Season 1. Sounds exciting? I think so.

A second idea would be to allow the Heroes to be outted. This is a game-changing move, but it keeps the show locked into the real world. Nothing annoys me more than seeing the speedster Daphne running into a crowded market at super speed, throwing papers and whatnot in her wake, but when she stops, no one seems to notice that this Caucasian chick in the middle of an Japanese market (actual Japan) just appeared out of nowhere at the same time as this gust of air and a streak of color. No one notices this?! Come on! That's not real. Real would have everyone freak out. At least have her run to a secluded alley and then walk out into the crowd. But to have her just appear? Plain silly.

So, allow the heroes to be outted. Let Nathan be caught on camera flying or have Sylar make the news during a killing spree. Then show what happens to the world in the face of people with extraordinary powers. You can keep the current cast and still build a story that is fresh to the show, unique to viewers, and compelling. I am sure that some heroes would grow cult followings. Stealing from the X-Men storylines, there could even be wannabe heroes who desperately want to become one of the special. There could be anti-hero movements. All sorts of storylines could come out. Coming out tales. Odd medical tales. Political intrigue. A school for heroes (another X-Men ripoff, but permissible nonetheless). The world might not look like the one we currently live in, but the characters would still act in a realistic manner.

Of course, lest someone at Heroes finds this, we will probably be stuck with the same lame storylines and bad acting (and the acting has gotten worse and worse as the show proceeds). Let's hope the writers can turn this ship around before it blows up (as foretold by a prophetic painting).

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 12:29 PM, ,

Poker on the TV: Celebrity Apprentice

It's been a while since I've done a Poker on the TV post, mostly because as poker declines from its peak in popularity, shows are no longer shoe-horning poker scenes into their episodes. This is probably a mixed blessing for yours truly, since most portayals of poker on mainstream television is utter claptrap; yet, the more poker is exposed to the mainstream audience, the more the game is accepted by the mainstreamers. And mainstream acceptance is key to the next evolution of gaming in the United States, which as I envision it, involves the expansion of legal poker both live and online.

That said, the second season of Celebrity Apprentice aired on Sunday starring a fairly decent cast, including none other than Annie Duke. While Duke is probably not in your top ten list of people to represent the poker community, she is a huge step up from the last poker player to obtain such national exposure, Jean-Robert Belande, who came off as a lazy asshole (not that there is anything wrong with that) on Survivor in 2007.

Amazingly, Duke, who isn't necessarily loved in the poker community, may actually be our best representative for the Donald Trump-led show. She grabs TV time in the first episode by being opinionated and at times overbearing around her teammates, but that should come as no surprise. Poker players, by their very nature, are not used to following orders. In fact, one of the many appeals of professional poker is the fact that there are no set hours, no bosses, no company lines to toe. So it should come as no surprise that Duke came off as aggressive and did not necessarily appear to be a team player.

But the beauty of Duke's appearance thus far is the way in which she sees the game. Unlike most of the cast, Duke seems to recognize the game-aspect of the show. She isn't trying to prove her business acumen; she is trying to WIN. That's a huge difference. She clearly watched season one of the show because she was able to argue (likely, rightly) about the location of a goddamn cupcake stand by recalling Trump's opinoin as to the same location in last season's hot dog stand contest. In other words, while the rest of the cast was trying to make a business decision based on their respective knowledge of the city, Duke was making a game decision based on historical data. This, too, is a poker trait. It's the difference between making a play because you have a good hand and making a play because you remember how your opponent acted the last time the same situation occurred, and you are exploiting that knowledge. For a non-poker player, the decision was about finding a good location based on their own frames of reference; for poker-player Duke, it was about remembering prior situations and viewing the hand in the eyes of the ultimate judge.

The bottom line is, poker players play a game for a living, competitively. It makes perfect sense, then, that a poker player has an edge in a game like Celebrity Apprentice, moreso than even Survivor. Whereas Survivor is about group dynamics, Celebrity Apprentice is about getting the job done, and as long as you perform, your personality conflicts are practically a non-issue. People called out Duke's aggressive style, but she brought in an ass-ton of money and she argued coherently and correctly as to why, although obnoxious, her bossiness was justified and beneficial to the team.

There is one other aspect that makes Duke a shoe-in to go deep (not that there have been such spoilers...). Poker players care nothing for money, so when Annie Duke, a high-profile name with lots of connections in the community, asks a fellow poker player to donate money, it's usually a non-issue. Celebrities like Tony Hawk donated $1000 for a cupcake, which in and of itself is something to be commended. After all, $1000 buys a lot of skateboarding equipment. However, in the same vein, unnamed poker players showed up and donated as much as $10,000 for a freakin' cupcake. Do these poker players have more money than Tony Hawk? Hell no. But they do routinely shell out $10,000 merely for an opportunity for a day's (or several day's) work/payday. It's this utter lack of regard for money combined with the peculiar generosity of poker players (I've seen it myself, time and time again, when it comes to charities) that puts Duke ahead of the pack.

But beyond Duke's chances for success, the poker community wins no matter what. Having Duke on the show demonstrates to a mainstream audience that (a) poker is played by men and women, (b) these people may actually have some business acumen, (c) they are not all thugs and/or lowlifes, and (d) poker must be important and legitimate. After all, having a poker player on the same team as real celebrities (!) (granted there is a Deal or No Deal model too) simply lifts the status of poker player to a new height, or perhaps at least maintains the idea of poker player as a glamorous job. It also implicitly suggests that poker is not just luck; how could a star emerge if it's just gambling in its purest form. There are no high stakes roulette players on the show. But there are professional athletes.

One final thought: Duke looked great on the show. She did not appear out of place among actresses and models. I don't mean to say she is model caliber, but you do have to give credit to the woman for looking good. So, if nothing else, she is a welcome change from the usual stereotypical poker player. She may even get more ladies to try out the game, and that works for me, because we all know that women are no good at poker.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 9:40 AM, ,