Saturday, April 28, 2007
All of this makes complete sense. Where are these $1-$2 players coming from? Where did they learn the game? Super System? Nope. Sawdust-infested card halls in the Lone Star state? Nope. More likely Party Poker. Freerolls even. And yet, here we are reading everything we can from the best in the world. Soaking up every CardPlayer article on the intricacies of playing pocket pairs from middle position.
Know thy enemy, right? Now…where can we find a bad rounder with enough time on his hands to tell us all he doesn’t know? Hmmm…I just might know one.
I am clearly scared out of my mind, but provided the clients are there, it should allow me to spend more time with my family, make dinner and MAYBE a little more time for poker.
In addition, I am planning on doing a little freelance writing as well to supplement the other income. Maybe some poker, maybe some horse racing and maybe a book. Who knows. But if I do write a book, I think there is a serious gap in the poker literature. There are plenty of beginner books…thank you Phil Gordon and thank you Poker for Dummies, i.e. Negraneu’s treatise. There are plenty of “advanced” books…thank you Cloutier, McEvoy and Brunson. But who is writing about the “wild, wild, west” that is the $1-$2 NL tables in Vegas and the mid-level tables and tournaments online? In my opinion, nobody. And I think I know why.
Who can give advice on how to play against such a wide-range of, ahem, styles? Yeah. Styles. Really, think about many of the poker truisms that can be thrown COMPLETELY out the window.
In many of the standard poker books, one theorem oft repeated is that you play the player, not the cards…that the cards become irrelevant. Really? So you KNOW that guy called the $12 raise in the $1-$2 game with a 5-7 and flopped his straight? I mean, clearly they were suited. That explains it. You MAY be able to tell by his betting patterns, but there’s no tell in the world that can scream, “I played 5-7 and your pocket 10’s are no good here.”
Here’s one of my personal favorites. Raises are crucial to obtain information. Maybe if you raise $100. I was playing in the Cherokee Casino in Tulsa, OK yesterday…$1-$2 NL. I raised $15 from UTG +1 with AK. I knew it may fold around to me, but I was okay than that. But I really thought I would get one person willing to take a stab with that KQ. At a nine-handed table and the UTG already in the muck, guess how many callers? Five. Flop came K-6-2 rainbow. Somebody held 6-6. That was expensive. Was it my fault for over-valuing top pair? Maybe a little. But I had watched my opponent long enough to know that he would play any two cards to the river. This time he just happened to have a hand. Trips and he never raised. Yeah, the pre-flop raise and all the subsequent raises really gained me a lot of information.
My point is not to deride the play of anyone. Don’t tap the tank. I get it. And most of them time, I will reap the benefits. I know all of this. I am just pointing out that while the beginner books are worthwhile for beginners to learn about blinds, starting hands and chasing inside straights and advanced books are good for high-level play, I think these books are perhaps even detrimental to the mid-level players.
But what do I know? I’m starting my own business. Maybe I’ll re-think that 2-7 Triple Draw.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) will introduce legislation today that seeks to reverse a controversial crackdown on Internet gambling, which the Republican-led Congress passed in 2006.
While passing the bill will be difficult, there is a big financial incentive for Democratic leaders to pass it.
The chairman of the Financial Services Committee is looking to raise tens of billions of dollars with his new bill, which could be used to pay for expensive tax, healthcare, or other domestic legislation Democrats want to move this year.
The introduction of the bill and its expected movement in the 110th Congress shows how much has changed in the nation’s capital since the November elections.
With Democrats in the majority, the power of social conservatives diminished and new pay-as-you-go rules, supporters of a repeal believe the time to strike is now.
Frank, a longtime critic of regulating Internet gambling, opposes the law on philosophical grounds.
“It’s a terrible idea and there are a large number of people who think it is a terrible idea,” Frank said yesterday. “I don’t know how it ends. The worst that happens is that enough anti-gambling busybodies will be less inclined to interfere in people’s lives.”
Gambling lobbying groups were more than pleased by Frank’s announcement.
“We’re incredibly excited. I’m very interested in what the final version will look like,” Michael Bolcerek, president of the Poker Players Alliance, said. “But from what we understand, it will do the right thing for poker players and at the same time protect the public interest.”
The group, led by former Sen. Al D’Amato (R-N.Y.), was formed to overturn the gaming law.
Frank believes that the GOP is hypocritical in saying it wants to reduce government intrusion but then passes legislation that regulates certain personal freedoms.
In 2000, Frank said, “It is important that people be able to do what the Republican Party wants them to do on the Internet. If the Republican Party has no objection, then they can do it. But if the Republican Party thinks there are pictures they should not look at, or perhaps booze they should not buy, or bets they should not make, then freedom for the Internet goes away.”
Because the law significantly affects the financial services industry, Wall Street is closely monitoring the Frank bill.
Friedman Billings Ramsey, an investment firm, wrote in a strategy memo that the Frank bill could raise more than $20 billion over five years.
The bill is expected to call for the Internet gambling industry to be taxed through a structured system.
Frank’s proposal, however, could face an uphill battle in the House, which passed the stand-alone measure 317-93 last summer. A less stringent version of the bill was later folded into a port security measure that was signed by the president last fall.
One source said that leadership officials in the House are on board with Frank’s plan, though Frank said he did not seek clearance from them.
Several members of leadership voted for the House bill last July, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.). Meanwhile, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) voted no, as did Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.).
Republicans, who spent six years attempting to pass the Internet bill, are mobilizing against Frank’s effort.
“We’re going to fight it,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), a leading proponent of the crackdown on Internet gambling. “I’d be surprised if the new leadership would want to bring back an issue that took six years, because of one Jack Abramoff, to resolve.”
In 2000, then GOP lobbyist Abramoff, now a convicted felon, marshaled his conservative allies in the House to defeat a bill that included a ban on Internet gambling.
The law prohibits Americans from using credit cards and checks to play on-line poker, place bets and engage in other forms of gambling.
The proposed legislation could benefit the offshore gambling sites that saw their U.S. customer base disappear when Congress stepped in last year. Hedge funds helped to drive down their stocks in anticipation of the curtailment of online gambling.
The share prices of PartyGaming LLC and 888 Holdings, two online gaming companies that are traded on the London stock exchange, have fallen more than 50 percent since last year.
The stocks have started to claw their way back in recent months, as hedge funds and other investors came to believe the government would falter at stamping out such a popular online activity. PartyGaming has seen its stock roughly double in the past three months.
Some U.S. companies also stand to gain from overturning the 2006 law, including Cryptologic, which provides software and services for internet gambling sites, said Andrew Parmentier, a senior analyst at Friedman Billings Ramsey.
Lobbyists for banks and credit card companies that would have shouldered much of the burden of enforcing the gaming crackdown, reacted favorably to Frank’s announcement.
“We’d be very pleased to see that law repealed simply because it would remove a potential burden on the financial system and especially on community bankers,” said Steve Verdier, the senior vice president for congressional affairs at the Independent Community Bankers of America.
“We also understand it will be a little bit of a road to get a repeal,” he added.
Bob Cusack contributed to this report.
The Hill (04/26/07)
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
This may sound odd (or slightly Rodney Dangerfield-esque for anyone old enough to remember Rodney Dangerfield or brilliant enough to recognize the genius of Caddyshack)...but hear me out. I assure you, it is an even bigger problem than your inability to fold the KJ. I am slowly beginning to realize that this perfectionism and childish focus on praise and acceptance is self-destructive in my professional life, but I am painfully aware of the -EV as it relates to this particular game of skill.
My yearning for respect at the poker table, either on the virtual or visibly stained felt, manifests itself in several ways. First of all, and most glaringly, I WAY overuse the continuation bet. I want respect for the hand that I am pretending I am holding. Nice, huh? There are just sometimes where a check is prudent, necessary or at the very least acceptable. Not me. I fire. Everytime. I just can't help myself.
Less obviously, I become obsessed with any kind of standings. In my monthly poker league, I would rather finish third every time and end up with high points for the league (but toward the bottom in ROI) than win twice and flip-flop the deliverables. I played virtually EVERY BBT event until this week. I was one of the leaders in events played and one of the bottom feeders for points per events played. With $0 to show for my efforts.
I find this quixotic quest for respect to be even worse in live play than in online play. The thought of getting up first from that tournament and walking out of the room, knowing I got all of my money in with the best of it is terrifying. I would much rather finish in the middle of the pack and have folded that middle set because I was just SURE the other guy had top set and I didn't want to bust too early. I even play for the "story." You know, the story you tell your poker-retarded friends and loved ones. The one where, "I got all of my money in as a 60% favorite, but the donkey sucked out on me and I was first out" = LOSER. But "I was just card dead...I fought and fought and finished 32nd out of 195" = ersatz credibility. Could you HAVE a more destructive philosophy? Aside from a style of play which earns you the nickname "Mr. Inside Straight" of course.
I enter this confessional because last night I expended a hard-earned $75 token to enter a satellite for the 100-seat Main Event Extravaganza on Full Tilt. I won a nice pot early on and found myself sitting near the top of the 19 person field. I proceeded to play not to lose and subsequently bubbled fourth when top 2 got seats and third got $250. In a tournament where the top three get paid, my honest to God goal after that first pot was to make the final table. Not to win. Not to earn a seat. To best less than half the field and watch my full tilt background morph into the bastardized WPT final table set.
Why? Because I recently uncovered the poker database where you can check your stats and I felt my final table percentage was a little too low. As MTTs are my passion when it comes to poker, this is the one mental flaw I simply MUST overcome if I am ever to become profitable. As any highly-paid and equally fucked up shrink will tell you, admitting it is the first step. Now...if I just knew what the second step was...
"I hear this place is restricted, Wang, so don't tell 'em you're Jewish, okay?"
Monday, April 23, 2007
Sunday, April 22, 2007
I love Golden Tee, the machine. I love that I can now use my credit card instead of interminably feeding $1 bills into a finicky machine when I could be saving them for Destiny or Sugar or Victoria. I love that I can waste money on different clubs and different balls that have no impact whatsoever on my game. It's so true to life.
I love Golden Tee, the machine. I hate Golden Tee the game. I'm not too bad at the game. Decent "handicap" ... can hook and shape the ball with the best of them. The calluses on my swing hand are strong enough from a variety of activities that I don't get many of the dreaded GT injuries. My problem? I am ALWAYS good for one disasterous hole. If there is a hole where you can be completely in jail and mark up the 10, I'll do it. It doesn't matter how hard I try to play smart golf, fairways and greens, I will end up in some crevace that will cost me $5 or $10 to the lucky stiff playing me heads-up.
And to make matters worse, I KNOW this about myself and I am constantly WAITING for this hole. It's in my head on every tee. "Is this the hole?" I am never as aggressive as I should be because I'm afraid of that hole. And yet invariably, I'll be on hole 13 or 14, playing well, usually leading and I will start to get a little cocky. I start to try to clear some trees I know full well I can't clear with a 3-wood. And I end up picking pine needles out of my teeth, marking double-digits on the scorecard.
What's the point in relating this short-coming of mine? It extends to my poker game as well. Last night I was in a 30-person MTT. A WIDE range of skill levels. For example, one guy has played in a few WSOP events and one guy flipped three diamonds and two hearts and declared he had a flush because they were all red. ALL skill levels. It makes for interesting table changes. That's for sure.
This is usually a re-buy tournament, but last night we bumped the buy-in and the freeze out was on. With a flat blind structure, I appropriately played tight early and hit the first break about average in chips. Following hitting a few flops pretty hard, I almost doubled-up and I began thinking about the final table. There were two short stacks at my table that had been nursing them rather tightly and we were all looking for opportunities to take advantage.
One of them was directly to my left and in this particular hand, he was in the BB. He had about T5,000 with blinds at 300/600. The action was folded around to me and I looked at 4c5c. I raised to T1,500 figuring was was all-in or folding. He called. Ummm...okay. Flop came A-J-3 rainbow. I checked. Mistake #1. Well, mistake number one was probably being in the hand at all for a "min" raise...but let's just say this is mistake #1 to make me feel better. He checks behind. The turn is a 4. I pair-up, but not exactly a powerhouse. I check again. He splashes $1,200 in the pot. Being a somewhat inexperienced and weak player, I thought he was just trying to take it down. How could a 4 have helped him and if it did, why that bet? So I called.
River was a 9. No help. But if he did have a four, this was an over. I ask for a chip count and put him all-in for his last $2,300. As tight and weak as he had been playing, I expected it to be an easy fold. But without much hesitation, he calls. And flips A-2. His betting patterns make ZERO sense, but what POSSIBLE reason did I have to play this and the way I did? Just like Golden Tee, I was sailing along, doing relatively well, thought I could just get this guy to bend to my will and next thing I know, my tournament chances were dashed.
Made the final table, but finished eighth. If I routinely donked off my chips or one bad beat after another or whatever, that's one thing. But to play good poker for 2.5-3 hours and routinely waste it all with one bad hand. Is this just a lack of concentration? Is it a psychological flaw? Does anyone else experience this? Have any thoughts? More importantly...anyone have any singles? I have a date with Destiny.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
But sometimes knowing yourself too well can be even more painful.
Due to familial obligations, I was unable to grab a token for last night's MATH on Full Tilt. So thanks to my PLO winnings from the weekend, I went ahead and bought-in...something that physically pains me. I LOOOOOVVVEEEE to satellite. I won't break out into Dave Matthews here no matter how much I may want to.
I went into the tournament knowing full well it was going to be a disaster in some way shape or form. Mentally, I was not prepared to play. I was allowing my ego to get the best of me and even though it means NOTHING, I was playing for points in the Battle of the Bloggers.
That invariably leads to disaster. But I held my own through the first few levels, maintaining a relatively static chip count (as is my Modus Operandi). Sensed weakness in one button raise and re-raised with nothing...maxed out at around $3,600 chips. Made it through the first level and promptly tightened up more than A-Rod's A-Hole in the playoffs. I was getting blinded to death (as is my Modus Operandi) when I got KcQc in middle position. I had been playing rather tightly and when the action was folded to me, I raised 3.5xBB. All folded to Joe Speaker in the big blind. He had a healthy stack of chips and popped me. I thought for a minute, but as I had a small stack by this point, I figured he was trying to bully me...or if not, hopefully I had two live cards with straight and flush possibilities. I thought maybe a middle pocket pair...and pushed all-in.
He insta-called and flipped A-K. Doh.
The flop came A-J-x with two clubs. Straight possibilities, flush possibilities...TONS of outs. Soemone even said they smelled a suck-out. Alas...it was not to be. The ironic part of this sad, pathetic tale is the end of my blog posted yesterday. Scroll down. I'll wait.
"But these darned bloggers are too well-versed in the re-raise and my enormous ego is terrified I might have to lay down that KdQd or worse yet...call with it."
See it? Yeah...so I had the suit wrong. Kill me.
Gravedigger...when you dig my grave...won't you make it shallow. So that I can feel the rain?
Couldn't resist Dave that time around.
Monday, April 16, 2007
But in the last week, one of the most helpful blogs I've run across is "Hard Boiled Poker" by Short-Stacked Shamus. His approach is intelligent, varied and most importantly he understands that poker and NL HE are not exactly synonymous and all encompassing.
One of the most difficult aspects for my taking poker seriously is the lack of discernible results, especially in cash games. Somewhere a highly paid shrink will say this has "something" to do with my perfectionism. But I digress... I played basketball in high school. If I scored over 20 points and/or the team won, I considered it a successful outing. In poker, outside of a tournament victory, how do you measure success? How do you walk away from the table feeling that you played your best?
Many people consider outcomes/profit to be the barometer. But that is flawed in so many ways. Pure variance/probability will dictate that you can play the best poker in the history of this horrible, neh wonderful game and still finish down for a session or a month's worth of sessions. And conversely, as we're all too painfully aware, the biggest donk in the history of equidae can come out ahead in the short-term.
So if money can't be used...and you sit down at a .25/.50 PLO table...what can be used to measure success? Mentally, over the past year or so, I have told myself that if I could walk away from the table feeling like I "out-played" those during my session, then it would be some sort of ephemeral victory. Sure...maybe I bluffed at a $10 pot with my last $8 to my Full Tilt name...but by taking the chance, I outplayed that guy who called with the runner-runner but flush to felt me. And conversely, if I played spandex-tight poker and just took advantage of those willing to risk their stack with TPTK in a nine-handed Omaha game, I was somehow stooping to their level.
What a destructive and bankroll killing line of thought when you're a self-avowed low-limit player who's more worried about paying for the next pack of Huggies Pull-ups than the next "Bracelet Race." And for some reason, it took reading Shamus' blog about low-limit PLO and just overplaying the nuts to make me come to this seemingly brutally obvious conclusion. So Sunday, I sat down for two short sessions at .25/.50 PLO...waited for what I felt were the nuts...and ended up with a $150 profit for the day thanks to those who were just SURE that middle and bottom two-pair were good on the flop. Did I outplay them? Not necessarily. Did the $150 prove that I'm a better player? Nope. But does it allow me to keep playing the game that I love without wrapping my three-month-old in an old OSU t-shirt to avoid paying for diapers? You better believe it.
The Big Game last night was highly enjoyable, entertaining and predictably mediocre in terms of my participation. As I have in virtually every blogger event, I held my own, got points and bled myself dry somewhere around the middle of the pack. I would like to blame the cards...I would like to blame the Layer Cake Shiraz...I would like to blame the Sopranos...
But in reality, I am just playing too darned tight in the second stage of these tournaments. I'm not talking about blind steals, but I need to trust my post-flop play and see a few more flops. In larger MTTs, I know I can count on a 3xBB raise to perhaps not thin the field as much as I hoped, but does ensure I can set the cost of seeing the flop. Or fold to the all-in. But these darned bloggers are too well-versed in the re-raise and my enormous ego is terrified I might have to lay down that KdQd or worse yet...call with it.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
One camp was apoplectic that he hardly spent any time on starting hands. Not only that, but there wasn't a single prop bet story that ended up with anyone fighting Thai women or with anyone else name tattooed on their nether regions. They kept skimming chapters looking for a "how to play poker" section...a road map. Eventually, they tossed the book away in favor of an issue of All-In magazine or Daniel Negraneu's purely topical treatise. These are the people you see in the $1 SnGs dreaming of running that non-existent bankroll back up to the $50 they started with, the observers popping into the higher buy-in tourneys online begging for that extra $6 so they can prove to the "donkey" that busted them who has seen more episodes of High Stakes Poker, or worst of all, the 20-somethings with I-pods in their ears, Oakleys perched on their noses and a "No Fear" card protector at the $2-$4 games.
These are not poker players. These are degenerate gamblers...or fad chasers...or idol worshipers. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not tapping the tank, deriding these "poisson" so that they run away to something more "now" like the housewife staple: Bunko. No. I'm just outlining that I do not intend to write this blog for these people. And if that keeps my readership at one or two, I am fine with that.
When a person overcomes stigma and convention and visits a psychologist...whether for depression or anxiety or a sex addiction...a therapist will not tell you how to live your life. They will arm you with tools, with thought processes, with an approach that will help make you successful. They will not say, "Hypothetically speaking, if the government were to ever so invade your private life that, against the advice of every other country on earth, they take away your right to enjoy your favorite, legal, past time and tie up thousands of dollars in red tape...I want you to act like this." That doesn't happen. People don't expect it.
But so many people are looking for the silver bullet to make them a winning poker player. If only they play pocket 10s a certain way, they will go from a kitchen table to the final table. A book, a blog, a conversation with David Benyamine on Full Tilt while he's trying to earn a living...none of these are going to provide the answers to making you a winning player. That responsibility lies within each person's psyche. You take the information you get from the books, from the blogs, from David, from hours playing online with a baby in one arm and the mouse in the other...you put that information into the prism that is your psychological approach to the game. And depending on the maturity and development of that prism, your poker play will either be a refined, solid product or a distorted and destructive by-product.
Just to clarify...in no means am I comparing myself to Barry Greenstein. Or a board-certified psychologist. I am simply indicating my belief in the importance of perspective and the mental approach to the game of poker. Perhaps this is because I was forced to face the importance of the aforementioned in my real life. I just hope that through these babbling posts and putting my words and thoughts on paper, I will be able to overcome tilt and destructive sessions as I am working to overcome the same at work and at home.
Tonight is Sunday...and thanks to my successful attempt in my very first token frenzy, I'll be playing in the Big Game tonight. I hope to see everyone there...these blogger events have brought me tremendous enjoyment and serve as constant reminders of how far I have to go to elevate my game.
The Blue Grass and the Arkansas Derby have done NOTHING to clear up the Derby picture. Wow. Didn't I say that last week after the Wood and the Santa Anita Derby? Polytrack has forever changed the importance of these preps and the unconventional routes being taken by trainers these days has made the Derby more of a guessing game than it ever was. Will we ever see two contenders race against each other on dirt, at a legitimate distance, on dry conditions ever again? I hope not. It's what makes this game fun.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
I was reading some of the blogs on the right side of my page last night while playing in a token frenzy on FT (where I acquired my first $75 token in my virgin career). And it hit me. I don't want to learn how to use Poker X Factor. I don't want to post results of my poor cash game results or my 45th place finish in a $5 PLO tourney on FT that pays top 43. And I'm not entirely sure anyone wants to read it.
My high school english teacher, Mrs. McDonald, was so senile that we used to talk during tests and trade papers to fill out pre-determined sections. Her class didn't teach me much. Except organization and planning. But one thing she did repeat over and over again is to write what you know and you care about.
And then it hit me...I don't care about hand analysis of my $1 SnGs, but I do care about poker politics. I care about the PPA, the UIGEA, state poker politics and the future of online and live poker. And I will use this space to call on everyone to both join and become active in the PPA.
I also care about the psychology of poker. Not in a Dr. Phil way. He's a douchebag. But, I am not embarrassed to admit that I am going through a period of change in my life and a period of great self-evaluation. And I find that it's not only helping my life, but my poker game. And in the future, I will utilize this space to share my thoughts and my journey in hopes that I will not only care about what I'm writing, but that someone will want to read it.
See everyone in the Mookie tonight.
Saturday, April 7, 2007
1. You must post frequently...every day if possible.
2. You must be interesting and actually blog about something people want to read.
My friends, so far I have admittedly broken BOTH of these rules with this blog. I beg the patience of anyone bored anough to actually read this.
Since I am currently watching the two munchkins and trying to weasel time to watch the Wood and the Masters later today, I'll quickly jot down a few thoughts from the last five days:
-- It's simple. Florida made their shots. Ohio State didn't. The Buckeyes did not get "outplayed" ... they didn't make their shots. This is not up for debate.
-- I've played in my first two blogger tournaments. I have a long way to go.
-- Shockingly enough, I earned points in the Riverchasers event. Yes, Hilary Swank...THAT is a miracle.
-- Austin, TX makes me feel really old and really ugly.
-- While in Austin on business, I was there at the same time a poker bill was being heard before the legislature. I bring this up because I will routinely beg both of you reading this blog to join the PPA.
-- I haven't cashed in a MTT in a LONG time. In reviewing my game, I think I am being too aggressive early in tournaments, playing too many pots and not being smart enough to lay hands down. Yeah. I have a long way to go.
-- In the Wood today, I like Summer Doldrums. I think Nobiz will race well and may win, but is chalky. Pletcher is just using the Wood as an opportunity to get earnings for Any Given Saturday. He will not be disappointed by a second or third place finish.
-- The Santa Anita Derby is just as weak as everyone thinks, but is too afraid to admit.
Monday, April 2, 2007
I am writing this at halftime so nobody says this is sour grapes. As a former basketball player, NCAA officiating is an abomination. I say this after watching the first half and I say it on both sides of the ball. The first foul on Conley was ridiculous. The foul on Richard was atrocious. Neither foul on Hunter would have been a foul in any other league anywhere on the planet. And yet Oden comes over the top of Brewer and mugs him, gets SOME ball and that is allowed for the “One Shining Moment” montage at the end. Speaking of which…ITunes is selling those things for $1.99 an episode? They’re three minutes of complete sap that are available all over the internet. Anyone dumb enough/effeminate enough to buy one of those things should get a lifetime ban from ESPN.
I can only hope the second half is more basketball and less figure skating. No offense “Blades of Glory.”