28 November 2005

Why: Cheetah, Jordan, or Gordon Gekko?

I've had some time to consider the mystery of why I play poker, as well as why I've crashed my online bankroll through jumping to limits beyond my funds. It is very important to understand, as it is a broader exploration of who I am currently and what I need. With apologies to the excellent bloggers that I read regularly (most of which are listed to the right), I'm writing and exploring at the same time (meaning I don't have some grand, well-thought-out theory on this).

My motivation could be purely financial, like Gordon Gekko from Wall Street (played by Michael Douglas). "What's worth doing is worth doing for money," but I don't think this is it. With a family of five and an executive background, it would be extremely difficult to ever make enough money playing poker to replace my income. If 2bb/100 hands is a good poker player, then I would need to average 40 hours/week and beat $20/40 or $30/60 consistently. I'm certainly not good enough for that. I've been able to stay cash positive at $15/30 both online and in live cash games, and I guess it is possible to find $15/30 juicy games both live and online. It would be such a significant change in lifestyle that it would be hard to approach. Having said this, Cash is one of the absolute metrics of poker. It is a zero sum game, so consistently being up means something. Doing so at middle limits means that you would be up against a better cast of characters. I don't see the finances as the goal, more a measure of success.

The competitive fire may be a motivation, a la his Airness, Michael Jordan. I've always been extremely comptetitive, and my vehicles to foster this trait have dissipated as I've reached middle age (40). A bad knee that hasn't responded to surgery has tossed out sports, including tennis and hoops. Golf is one avenue, but it is both time consuming as well as I don't have a regular crew to compete with. That doesn't leave too much. There is a touch of this, but it is more about being solid, successful rather than beating others.

Which brings me to the cheetah, my favorite animal. The cheetah is fast, and only uses its speed in bursts when it needs to. Cheetahs wait and wait, then utilize their gift to attack, to jump on the action. Is it the burst of action that I crave?

Is that what drives me? I don't like to think of myself as an action junkie--I'm not going to jump on any prop bets on the color of the next car coming through the red light or anything. I think I'm exploring a couple of questions simultaneously. Why did I jump up to $30/60 and NLHE600? I think it was a combination of depression at times, trying to double down when sliding, and unknown causes. It was never making a stab, taking a shot at a higher limit. Why $15/30 rather than $5/10? Boredom, lack of real feedback vs. time invested (playing for an hour or two online and being up $50 vs. playing an hour and being down or up $400). The jumps to NL in general I need to study, as I think they have been generally not well thought out and have cost me severely.

Online vs. cash games is also something that I need to figure out. I would say I enjoy cash games probably 10x more than online. There are so many things about it. The anonymity of walking into a cash game, whether I'm at the Bellagio, Foxwoods, Casino Arizona, or some obscure Indian casino in Indiana or Washington. I really love that I can sit down among who knows whom and jump right into a game. I love the chips, I love the tough laydowns, I love rifling (or riffling or something) my chips, I love stacking chips. I love check-raising, I love getting out of the way. I love racking up chips, asking for one or two more racks. I love hundred dollar bills. I love tipping. Even the horrible beats and donkey play is easier to stomach live. I love listening to idiotic experts, I love spewing one-liners and wild banter. I love seeing the controversies, seeing management come to the table to figure out what happened. I'm so bad at big parts of live play also: I don't think I can pick up a single tell on anyone, I have no short-term memory or interest so I don't remember much about anyone, I don't think of anyone sitting in the 7 seat or the 2 seat, I don't move seats, I don't move tables. But I love seeing it all. The Asian grinder. Mother (every casino has at least one person named Mother). The old fart. The college kids. The hotties. The arthritic lady. The whale. The Eastern-European-scary-guy. The Somali chip stacker. The drunk. The scary Dragon Lady. The old Frog guy. The star sightings and not going gaga over them (e.g., Hansen, Negreanu, David Williams, Jennifer Harman, etc.). And, of course, the Strawberry Julius at the Bellagio. Being able to get the poker room rate when I stay at the Bellagio. Having someone write my name on the list without me telling them who I am.

Online misses all of that, and maybe online is just a simple bad mistress, and I demean myself by even playing. I just don't know. I know I want to jump back in. But I don't want to unless I have a gameplan, unless I have rules of engagement. I'm leaving for Houston tomorrow and will be gone until Christmas, probably in Houston for a week, jumping around the US for another week or two, and in the UK, Holland, and maybe Paris and Germany for a week-ten days. I'll do some more pondering, then I'll fire some more in here. Any thoughts or mental meanderings are welcome.

27 November 2005


First, here's to Brian McBride for a great Thanksgiving brace to defeat Bolton 2-1. McBride hasn't been getting a ton of chances for Fulham, so it's nice to see our Yank make it stick (much better than Landon Donovan fleeing Leverkusen when the going got tough).

OK, back to the inaction. I'm forty miles from Tunica in Memphis, and the Closet Poker Player can't get permission to make the trek down. Played a bit with my family and aunt's family (a new cousin-in-law plays). We played a freeroll with no cash or prizes, which affects play a bit (does the term call mean anything to anyone?). Had a massive bad beat against new cousin-in-law (finishing his degree in Missouri), I raise pre-flop with my brother-in-law and new cousin (AQ0). Flop comes QTx, he bets, I raise alot, brother-in-law calls, he raises all-in, I call, brother-in-law folds (KK if you can believe that--not sure how he did that). I call, cousin-in-law flips over QJ, Q comes on turn, and the J comes on the river. Next night, his wife (my cousin) picks off two of his bluffs (basically his whole family called any time he would raise or bet at pots, so I don't see alot of future in their marriage--basically, I can deduce that their entire family thinks he is a liar including his wife).

I'm at a stupid Starbucks paying T-Mobile for the privilige of being online (Memphis must be the least wireless town in America as I rode around for 45 minutes trying to find free internet access), so this won't be too comprehensive. I commented on my last posting, and I want to spend more time exploring feedback from Wes, scurvydog, and will. I think scurv is particularly on to something, although it may be a bit more complex than he gets.

I've read a couple of great books (I'm more of a book buyer than a book reader, so this is an impressive feat). Of course, related to poker (which my wife mocks as the only book I can now read). First is Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers by Katy Lederer. Terrific read, short, very well-written (OK, that's probably a bit of a stretch for me to be qualified to say). Katy is Howard Lederer and Annie Duke's sister, and she wrote this pre-poker explosion. Chronicles their childhood, Howard's travails and rise, some insight into Annie Duke as well. Really interesting stuff. The second I've written about before,
The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King: Inside the Richest Poker Game of All Time by Michael Craig. This is a book about Andy Beal, the Texas billionaire who repeatedly goes to Vegas to play in a game of increasingly outrageous stakes against the best of the best: Doyle Brunson, Howard, Jennifer Harman, Chau Giang, Phil Ivey, Barry Greenstein, Erik Seidel, Gus Hansen, and more. A great read, and the implications of even more interesting stories are really intriguing.

OK, I'm going to cruise. I'll work on a further exploration of that last couple of weeks, as well as my motivation for playing and next steps, probably tomorrow.

22 November 2005

Final Straw

Final torture now complete for now. I'll bore you with a few others (this is an official vent, so give me some room):
  • First hand dealt in NLHE400, I raise with AJs and one caller, flop of AJ2 (22 took that)
  • Raised with KK after rebuying (second hand I had cards), flop came Q98 (Q9 took me down; to add insult to injury, an 8 on the turn put me ahead only to get whacked by a 9 on the river)
  • Move to $15/30: top pair with board paired taken by a deuce on the river to give the guy a boat with his 22 that he stayed with to the end
  • Raised UTG with AJ has the bb call with J5o, flop of J58; I call maniac with ATo from bb, flop T96 rainbow I check raise only to have the lovely frightening 4h which he check raises me with his 44
This is normal variance and fluctuation, to be sure. Doesn't make it any more comforting to live through for sure, but there you go. For those keeping track, bankroll is now -$900, so I'll have to eat into cash or my cash bankroll. I do want to explore this and not shy away from the last 24 hours. I respect Wes et al regarding bankroll management. I agree, but I want to drill down a bit more on it.
  • Braking System The inability for a sliding poker player or gambler to stop the slide is a very common cause of going broke. There is a need to put structure and discipline into play, and having an established braking system is something that should be absolutely mandatory. Whether it is losing two buy-in's, having x number of losing sessions, it is important in preventing significant losses
  • Stakes Common thoughts on bankroll are to have 200-300x the big bet of the game you are taking on. If you are a solid player (2bb/100 hands or more), then it will allow you to handle the volatility of the game. That volatility of normal variance gets compounded during losing runs by a few other magical factors: a false appearance of your hand probability not holding up to poor decision making by evildoers, zigging when you should have zagged (meaning folding the small pocket pair UTG or two the 3-bet only to flop a monster), draws that don't seem to hit, drawing hands that backdoor alternatively improve (trips or two pair when chasing your flush). These things happen. When it happens at an approachable limit (say, $5/10 online for me), then a bad run is disappointing. When I jump up, then it evaporates the bankroll. All of the above is normal poker, as well as the stuff below from last night. People love Gus Hansen, they play crap to either catch something and get you off of big cards or to hopefully catch a monster. Either makes you a great player, so you have to live with that mentality.
  • Motivation Many poker bloggers aspire or actually play for a living. I don't have such aspirations. I enjoy the competition, love that this is something that I can do that is for me. I can theoretically improve, compete with people wherever I go, potentially become good at this. With three young boys and a full plate of running a business, trying to attract clients while trying to find an executive job that can keep us from moving, the hobbies or things for me are scarce. Golf is something that I enjoy, but it takes forever which is a challenge on the home front. My financial aspirations are to build a bankroll that gives me the freedom to play more, that allows me to play some tourneys even. Financials are also a metric of performance and results, regardless of what Raymer may say ("...make the best decisions and can live with the outcome..."). Crashing and burning, though, turns this into an expensive hobby, especially with bad behavior (e.g., stakes, etc.).
  • Stress Poker has been a stress release for me rather than a stressful thing for me. Hitting these losing streaks is frustrating; the bigger challenge is that it compels me to take a break so that I have some fiscal discipline to this. So, busting out prevents me from playing online, which eliminates one of the few ways I have of dealing with stress.
  • Competence I really like reading some of the self-analytical blogs that get into summaries regarding being weak at certain games or certain types of games (MTT for example). I need to search out the leaks in my game more diligently, because they are there. I don't think they are huge. For example, most of the time you have to lay down AK or AQ if you don't improve after the flop or turn. Regardless of seeing the guy win with AJo and nothing else, you'll lose online a heck of a lot more faking or chasing with overcards then you will win (at least that's my belief). I don't believe in chasing underpairs after the flop, throw them away depending on the circumstances pre-flop, etc.
I would interested in perspective on all of this as I'm probably a bit close to it right now. A bit wordy, but I wanted to get it out in the blog rather than either discount Wes/et al, avoid by lying to you, or to simply disappear for the holidays. Again, thanks for giving me a vehicle to get all of this out there. I really appreciate folks stopping by and hope somewhere in all of this it is interesting, entertaining, or helpful.

21 November 2005

Bear Trap

Another -$900 night (I'll round it). $5/10: -$370, NLHE200: -$148, NLHE400: -$350. First $5/10 session: card dead, nothing too bad. Second session: poor decision making (betting underpair) when this hand hit: I re-raise a raiser on button with 99, he caps with callers other callers. Flop comes T96, and I raise him with five callers. K on turn I raise with four other callers (I'm worried about QJ out there or my capper having KK). 6 on river eliminates QJ, and capper bets with everyone dropping but me, who calls. He flips over KK and takes a $302 pot in $5/10 (one of the largest pots I've seen). Brutal, painful, and all of that. Not sure what I could have done differently. Only thing could have been slowing down on the turn as it was one of the two cards I didn't want to see, which cost me one bet.

Jump to NLHE to try and change things up. NLHE200 significant hand was what appeared to be a steal attempt that turned into a set of kings (don't ask what I had and why I was in the hand). So, of course, I take Wes' advice and jump up to NLHE400. I buy-in for $350, tread water waiting for a monster hand, when the bear trap comes in. A loose loudmouth chatter calls UTG, I call with 55--three more callers. Flop comes 3d4d7s, I bet $20 and the chatter calls. My money card comes with the 6h on the turn. I fire $75 into the pot, and he calls again. He's bluffed folks all night, so I read him as maybe, I'm not sure, not much I can't imagine (you can jump to the punch line), maybe a flush draw (surely a flush draw). Tc hits the river, I bet $175 into a $200+pot, he re-raises me all-in (another something, maybe $40 or $50, it's a blur). He flips over 58o for the nuts, with my trap becoming the trappee. My fault for not raising pre-flop, playing scared and waiting for the trap opportunity rather than playing solid, strong poker.

Hopefully the folks who come here are here for pure entertainment and not uplifting if-he-can-do-it-i can-too. The decision making tonight was solid in spots and impatiently poor in others (sliding back into pretend poker, where you pretend to have cards that you don't have, going against my plans with pocket pairs). That may sound like bluffing, but it is more like bad decision making where you've made your read, know to lay down, then decide (decide is probably too strong a word) to raise or stay in for some reason. The decision to move to NLHE was partly because of running bad (where I need to stop or even move down instead). The decision to move up was a gambling behavior, trying to make it back quickly rather than grind it away, looking for luck to trap rather than performing solidly. The particular hands (the set beaten by turned set, the last NLHE400 hand), well, the last hand is pretty frustrating, with the guy calling UTG with rags, flopping a gutshot, then catching. He paid his money, chased with his strong implied odds, then cashed out. So, I've given back almost all of the gains from the bottom, sitting at +$200 or so/online bankroll somewhere at $600 or so (have jumped back to $5/10). I'll keep you posted.

Donkified Decisions?

Not much play for the weekend, although I cashed in two $30+3 SNG (3rd and 2nd) for a net of $84. I think I might like to play more of these as it fits the Closet Poker lifestyle: not much time invested, more play and action required with limited downside. Also played a $20+2 multi-table. I've never cashed in these, and this was no exception. Got all-in on the first hand (which was stupid with JJ, and made an all-in re-re-raise only to see KK flipped over). Of course, I caught my set on the flop, but a stupid play nonetheless. I can't quite recall how I crashed out, but I started playing a bit wilder further on as I didn't have alot of time.

Played 75 minutes of $5/10, +$217 and 31 minutes of NL$200, +$111 for a weekend total of around +$400. Tried to jump on a Party reload bonus, but it didn't seem to work so I backed my deposit out. Online bankroll at $1,527, which accomplishes the recovery goal of getting back to +$1,000. One quick hand: dealt big slick suited UTG+1 with UTG raising, I re-raise, button caps, three callser including me. 3h5s2s flop, giving me four to the nut flush. I bet with a re-raise by the capper and two calls, so all four of us stay in. 5d comes on the turn, we check to the capper who bets, and two of us call him. Magic card of 7s on the river gives me the nut flush, which I check. Caller bets, capper calls, I check/raise, caller calls with a JT flush, capper folds. Played six hands, +$178. The other $5/10 table had some real gravy trains, with the table sitting at 10-18 waiting almost the whole time I was there. I seemed to zig when I should have zagged, but ended the session positive, which is fine by me.

So I know the answer to this question, but I'll ask it anyways. My wife and her college friend decide they want to go to see U2, which was here Friday and Saturday. They spent most of last weekend on eBay, fighting for $300 tickets for the three of us only to see them go for $325 or whatever. So I pull the noble, valiant gesture: I tell her to move down to two tickets and pay whatever she wants so that she doesn't get cash shy. She's able to snag two tickets for $125 each, and I've busted out of U2. This is possibly my second worst concert decision, probably only second to deciding not to see The Police during the Synchronicity tour in '83. My roommate and I were in a huge fight about who was more of a musical genius, The Police or Michael Jackson. So, again poor decision making. The question, of course, is did I make a mistake in not going to U2.

Oh, and a quick shoutout to a legendary blog that I'm new to from Linda Geenen. She's a Bellagio dealer and has absolutely great perspectives on the games at the Bellagio, including Table 1 and the Big Game (I'm assuming--haven't found it yet). Lots of celebrity name-dropping for those who care. By the way, best celebrity sighting in my life: Madonna in the Upper West side of Manhattan in '85 I think. She's walking across the street as I am also. As we pass, I give her a "Hello, Mrs. Penn." I get her smile back, which I'll take.

iPod recent downloads: Outstanding (The Gap Band), Anotherloverholenyohead (Prince), Follow the Leader (Eric B and Rakim), Tennessee (Arrested Development).

18 November 2005

Donkeys are People Too

I read a variety of poker blogs regularly (see links to the right). Some of these bloggers I have the utmost respect for, know they're right. Wes, as an example, is quite solid, and has given the correct view (at least I would say it is correct) that I don't have an adequate bankroll to play at the stakes I have played at. I've written about evaporating my bankroll through donkified tilt play, as well as moving up to $30/60 after being possessed by some sort of alien spirit or hypnosis (just had to spellcheck possessed--that seems like way to many s's). By the way, should our kids even have to learn spelling or cursive? I mean, you don't need to know how to spell anymore, and no one needs to write in cursive. I quite when I was a sophomore in college--had to buy a semester's worth of notes from someone because I couldn't read mine (may have also been the slobber and sleep-induced scribble as well).

But I digress. So, of course, understanding the counsel of Wes fully, I head back to Party's $15/30 afternoon scarce group of tables, mainly with so many sharks jumping in and out of the table that my fingers started cramping trying to keep up with them in PokerTracker. My logic for this? First, long wait at the $5/10 tables. My overall bankroll (cash, online, and various IRA's I guess if it came right down to it) seems OK for $15/30. So the verdict: 90 minutes, 100 hands, +$382. Played fairly tight, folded big slick a couple times, lost with AJ vs. AK, watched some fool scream about everyone else's horrible play after catching a runner-runner straight with nothing on the board and a TJo. The crucial hand, though, was one of my favorite things to see (at least when it's mine): the pretending-to-have-a-monster play with a bad hand that gets caught, only to flop a monster.

I'm in sb shortstacked ($149), button raises, I decide to re-raise with 9h7h. Why you ask? Well, you have to defend your blinds, and what better time than when you're spiraling downward? Anyways, bb calls, button caps it, and the blinds call. Flop comes Td8cJh. I've got like $94 left and decide to bet, which the bb calls and the button raises, I call, bb re-raises, button caps it, I call. So, I've got $29 left. Qs hits the turn, which is a horrible card for me, giving AK a bigger straight, but I shrug and bet my last $29 chips. It looks like alot since it is a huge stack of chips, bb calls me and button raises to make a side-pot with bb. River is another bad card, 8h, which puts a boat out there for TT or JJ. Button bets and bb folds, with button flipping his KK over. Button I'm pretty sure had JT as she let some vitriole after mucking about the luck of said button. So I go from felt to above buy-in with the $444 pot. Also one a nice pot defending bb with 560, flopping open-end straight and catching the 9 on turn (showdown had called raise with 78s and flopped two-pair).

Online bankroll: $1,136, so a nice move toward getting back to +$1,000 from my low point. Donkified play on my part helping me get there (maybe a bit of luck; I mean, I'm not chasing gutshots or catching runner-runner's), but a decent enough base now to give me a bit of wiggle room from the bottom.

17 November 2005

Scrambling Back

Poker play has been light this week (three $5/10 sessions, +$350). Will stay focused on $5/10 until I can build back up to +$1000 (maybe just stay there). I'll probably be playing some live games through the end of year and January as I have an intense project with a client that will take me with heavy travel after Thanksgiving. Should include UK (so I can hit London card rooms for the first time), may include LA. I'll probably be in Europe 1-2 weeks, will be in China for a week in January, and not sure where else in Asia (another week or two). I may have weekend opportunities to sneak to Vegas or somewhere else, so I'll let you know when I get schedule finalized. I'll be in Houston week after Thanksgiving, but not sure if there is anything there.

Nice to see Allen Cunningham make the final table of the WPT Foxwoods. For some reason I'm a big fan of his...

I also may be close to getting a home game going. It looks like I have four interested parties, so I can make it a go with another two or three. I'd really like to have that as part of my poker life. My great custom hold 'em table is an underutilized asset, and it would be especially great to have the cameraderie. I don't get it from the bar tourneys. I think I've qualified for the end-of-year tourney (played three of the ten tourneys with a 1st and a 2nd). I may not be around to play in the finals now. I think 60 players with winner getting a 42" TV or something like that.

Sorry to anyone who had posted comments, and they are all appreciated. I had added a moderate comments feature which I didn't realize I needed to check (althoughI guess the word moderate might have tipped me off...)

14 November 2005

Crash and Burn

The summary: -$1,950 on Sunday playing $15/30, $30/60, and NLHE $600 (bought in for $400). The $15/30 sessions were frustrating in that I overplayed hands to start while getting not much of anything, only to be beaten by other mediocre hands (A3 vs A2, KTo vs. A5 at first table), and it continued on second table (limped with 42 and flop came T22--villain had A2, AA cracked by QJo with Q on flop and turn, overplaying underpair on flop of JJ9, overplaying bb of Q9o 2nd pair when two-pair flopped). Tilt decision to move up to $30/60, although I got focused and played what I thought was solid mentality. Big slick taken out by 97o in bb, then a series of missteps overplaying nothing hands, feeling the pressure of the higher blinds ($15/30 blinds). Took a final $400 to NLHE $600, had doubled it up and was trying to do more, than made some bad loose plays and then lost most of my stack with AQo flopping an ace to a set of trey's. So, as much as I would like to think I can play solid, this was a major step backwards in more ways than one.

Top observations:
  • Moving up on tilt. This is a gambling play rather than a solid strategy, and it has now bitten me twice for $1,600 in losses. I haven't prepared for $30/60, yet decided I would give it a go after becoming frustrated with poor results.
  • Lack of discipline. This comes in two forms: poor decision making when your good cards get spanked, and loosening up when you become card-dead. Running 6/14 with AA in November is extremely frustrating and indicative of other results (2/6 with AKs, 1/7 with AQs), and you have to make the right decisions when required. Loosening up starting requirements when running light on cards is easy to do, especially as you're watching others win that way. I thought I was beyond that, but I regressed Sunday.
  • Overplaying hands. It is easy to run with 99 on a raised flop of Q73. The logic I go through is, "Well, he probably missed with AK or some other strong ace," only to see AQs when he shows his cards. Overplaying pocket pairs is a very common way of losing pots. Again, a leak which came back as I was struggling, something I know better.
  • Getting on tilt for deciding not to call pre-flop. This may be one of my most common things, to freak out when I fold and then hit a monster. It happened twice yesterday when I folded 22 in middle position to a raise, only to see the deuce hit on the flop. I'll get more upset most of the time than I will for folding on a flop with overcards only to see me hit on the turn.
  • Bad donkified luck. My last $30/60 hand had a raiser cap me and one other caller for $120 pre-flop when I had QQ. The board flopped 944, and the capper flipped 74s at the end, taking down a monster flop (and my triple-up opportunity) with 74s.
This brings me into dangerous territory, having run my online bankroll from $3800 three weeks ago to $400. My goal for November of being up for the month looks like a pipe dream now, as I will need to run my $400 up almost 10x. I don't want to jump back in as I need to drop back down to $5/10 or lower to build back up, and I don't want to get sucked into the vortex. I will need to be very focused when I jump back in, and I don't want to rush it. Obviously, very disappointing. Some of this was also caused by being a Closet Poker Player, as I got very distracted trying to play while multitasking with the kids. I will probably need to come out of the Closet more formally, set guidelines similar to what other bloggers have discussed. I'll be travelling extensively over the next ten weeks also, which could be dangerous for me online (late nights with heavy travel). But to sum it up, just very disappointing in both the result but more importantly the decisions that got me there, particularly the choice of moving back to $30/60.

10 November 2005

True Beauty

Grace Kelly is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I have pictures of her in my office at home, which my wife doesn't seem to mind too much (although her Tom Cruise shrine gets under my skin at times; I mean, who really staples a Mission Impossible promotional popcorn bag to the inside cabinet door in the laundry room? Am I missing something here?).

So I've now seen the second most beautiful thing. Last night I go to the local bar poker tourney. Come to find out I'm tied for tenth because of my win in the second week of a ten week series (we're now in Week 9), although I only played in two tourneys during that time. Top ten qualify for a season ending tourney with other bars, where the winner gets something.

So we have 5000 in chips, blinds are 100/200, I've folded sb and bb once, and an older lady UTG raises to 400 to go (most people limp, and she is tight, so she has something). Guy to my right Kevin who organizes the tourneys calls (could be anything), I think for just a bit and call with my 33, and bb calls. Flop comes 3x3c7c--I've flopped quads! Now this is a bar tourney, but I am trying to just stay focused on breathing. Lady bets 500, guy on my right calls, and I call (bb gets out). Qc comes on turn, lady checks, Kevin checks, and I check. 2c comes on the river. Lady bets 500, Kevin calls, I raise to 1500, she goes all-in, I like some freak say I call before Kevin does anything, say I'm sorry, he then calls, and I call. We toss our cards out and you should be able to guess the hand. She tosses AcAs down and says, "I have the nuts." Kevin turns over 77 and is staring at my cards, trying to figure out what exactly I have. And the term for what I have: that would be quads, as in "I flopped quads." Of course, this would happen in the bar freeroll, but quads is quads, you know? I ended up playing really well, getting heads up with chip lead, putting the other guy all-in pre-flop with A9o, he flipped KTh over and flopped flush draw then caught a K on the turn. That put me down 2:1 in chips, which I then ended up slow playing T7 flop of T74, going all-in on turn when 4 hit (45 took me out).

I really liked my play making some semi-bluff moves, and I was also down to 10% of the chips with four people left. Bar poker tourneys aren't exactly the same as any others--people chop in these (which is bizarre to me in a tourney), most people limp and don't do too much. The worst part about it is the smoking. I'm sure it would be harder for me to play live if there was smoking at the table as it is very uncomfortable. Haven't played online in several days, trying to give myself a break to be sure I can play when I'm ready to play my best.

09 November 2005

State of Poker

Thought you might be interested in this, which I wrote in correspondence with a name, up-and-coming player, who is in the know regarding the poker community. It started as a reply to an article he wrote regarding the WSOP Tournament of Champions sponsor's exemption controversy. My thoughts below:

I think Harrah’s admitted that this wasn’t ideal, adding the three in deference to Pepsi’s wishes. It was a freeroll with an established entry that then was changed due to a late sponsor coming in. To bankroll $2MM. As poker is stretching, trying to figure out what the future holds, and with no players organization to voice their wishes, the players who are around (now Harrah’s, ESPN, and WPT) are trying to figure out how to keep this thing growing and make it thriving rather than turn it into a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire/ABC fiasco. Can you imagine a world where you personally are in the WPA (World Poker Association) having qualified in 2005 being in the Top 500 players in results? You can still have qualifiers and buy-in’s, but you have to put up half or a tenth of a buy-in with sponsors kicking in the rest.

To me, the specific issue of the sponsor’s exemptions is a red herring and is more symptomatic of larger issues confronting poker; i.e., who’s in charge, and where is it headed? What is the vision for poker in 2010, and who is going to take it there? I know there are a lot of very bright folks (including you and your peers) who are struggling with the How-Do-We-Capitalize-on-this-Poker-Explosion, Can-We-Be-Part-of-Taking-It-to-the-Next-Level, and How-Do-We-Prevent-this-from-Becoming-Just-a-Fad. It seems like a very significant challenge that is confronting the game.

  • One of the biggest players (WPTE) floundering
  • No real center of influence stewarding the direction of the game, either among the players, tournaments, and poker rooms
  • No organization setting any rules or guidelines for poker
  • Lack of quality control with production being created; outside WSOP, WPT, and National Heads-up, the rest is all over the board
  • Everyone and their brother throwing things at the wall to see what will stick/where they can get their part of the action
  • Poker rooms springing up like weeds
  • Building poker around celebrity/individuals seems to be high risk. It’s one thing to build around solid players that aren’t going away (Doyle, Ivey), but there seems to be a lot of risk building around the new guns (Negreanu, Esfandiari) or today’s story (Moneymaker)
  • Fracturing of tournaments, with overlapping events starting to look more like the tennis tours vs. PGA
  • Online poker may be hitting a growth wall
The term poker fad is being heard more and more. I for one would like to see sustainability, but the current path is one towards entropy, which equals chaos, which means flash in the pan.


First, what a wild tourney in the WSOP Tournament of Champions, won last night by Mike Matusow. Check out all the action at CardPlayer. It was an absolutely crazy final table, with Hellmuth, Steve Danneman (runner-up from this year's Main Event), Hoyt Corkins (the cowboy hat guy with the WPT wins), and Mike the Mouth. They are supposed to air this around Christmas on ESPN, but they may have to turn the final table into a miniseries.

Played $5/10 yesterday, was up $200 on first two tables, then got to the felt on the third, fought back to -$35, and was trying to get back into the black to book three for three winning sessions. Ended up giving up the $205 through alot of impatient play and general poor decision making. Trying to beat a strong table, while noble, is pretty foolish with soft tables abounding. Had a ton of turnover at the table, four folks staying with several seats turning five or six times in an hour. The lack of discipline was a disappointment, especially for the logic of trying to get to a winning session. I feel like I should have booked my comeback and left down only a bit, but I got too prideful. There were a few fish and calling stations, and I zigged when I should have zagged. So, much ado about nothing or something like that.

08 November 2005

Rough NLHE Night

Donkified beats: AA vs. T9 with 9 on flop, T on turn; with 77 I raised a nemesis all-in with flop of 245 (pot was $125 with five players calling a min raise and min re-raise) before his bet of $100, I raised to a total of $353), he called with A5o and caught an ace on river. Horrible player who made several bad plays, so it was disappointing not to pick him off. Lost $500 or so. I'm mixed on how to feel about poor play. I think overall you can't sweat it too much as for the long run you want bad play and all that stuff. Doesn't bring the cash back, but I actually think it's easier to make good reads and get sucked out then to make your play and find out you were wrong with your read.

My goal is to get online bankroll up to $5,000. This might not sound too ambitious (ended October at $3,677), but it is a bit practical and realistic. Since I've crashed and burned my bankroll a few times, this dealing with that practicality. If I can have two +EV months in a row, then that could be a trend. I think my $600NLHE is a crutch, searching for the big score rather than playing solid. More than likely, I'll return to $15/30 and focus there, see if I can put together some solid sessions. Worst three hands for November are QJo, AA, and AJo (AA has been cracked four of six times, costing me $400). Top three hands are AKo, 97s, and QQ. Stayed up working on a couple of proposals, so I'll give the dog a treat and hit the sack.

07 November 2005

Hmmm--What are the Lessons Learned?

Padraig Harrington, Dan's cousin

+EV for the weekend, although some weird, gimmicky ways of getting there:
  • About two hours of $15/30 moving tables twice, +$360
  • About 80 minutes of NL$200, -$117 (KK beaten by flopped set of 6's)
  • 109 minutes of NL$600, +$1017.09: notable pots
    • KK beats flopped Q (+150)
    • Cracked AA with flopped QJo two-pair (+$295)
    • AQs doesn't improve, beaten by 99 (-$84)
    • 99 bets at pot with board of 8A83 (+55)
    • Limp in with 99 with five callers, flop of 632 rainbow I bet $50 and one raiser of $50 I call, turn is 5d raiser bets $100 I go all-in for another $173, which he calls, 9 on river I didn't need--67o had top pair and gutshot (+$415)
    • JJ with A on board (-$80)
    • AKo I raise 3x pre-flop, sb raises it to $72 to go and I call, flop is KQ3, raiser bets $100, I go all-in for another $419 which he calls, A on turn and J on river but he turns over AQo for lower two-pair (+$597)
I'm stuck for $778 in NL$200, with one small win for six tries. My impression is that it is too much wait for the monster flop or trap for the big win, so I may need to get away from trying to beat it. A bit fortunate in the $15/30, with a flopped straight taking down an overpair and a made flush on the turn winning a huge pot from a flopped two-pair (raise/re-raise/re-re-raise three times over). It was a nice recovery, although a bit lucky. I was concerned with my retreat backwards last week, but I've almost recovered the losses now only down $220 or so for November. I decided to play my best and was able to have the time and space to do it. Also didn't play tired, which I could have last night (my wife fell asleep pretty early, still recovering from catching the bug that I had last week).

I went to the PGA Tour Championship yesterday and was icing my knee the evening (I have a bad wheel). Parked on the tee-box of #7 for a good chunk of the early afternoon to watch the leaders come through. My best line of the day was yelling out, "All-in Dan, I mean Padraig" to Padraig Harrington. He is a distant cousin of Dan Harrington. Supposedly they've never met, but after Padraig won a big tourney and called his Mom, she said, "That's nice dear, but did you see that your cousin Dan almost won a big poker tournament?" This was after the 2004 WSOP Main Event final table. I got a grin out of him. I was also able to score a free bottle of water from the tee-box lady, who I was assisisting by handing the rope to her to rope off the crosswalk when the players would approach. She had a good final day until the Tiger group and their million-man march came through. The extra staff wasn't prepared, and the tee-box guy mad a major stumble, dropping the tee-box rope and ending up grabbing the cross-walk rope and just stretching and praying. He had been eating a Snickers that he had forgotten in his pocket earlier in the day, so he may have gotten overconfident. It is always important to focus and play your best, whether it is being a tee-box marshal, driving a golf ball, or playing Closet Poker. Or at least that's what I always say.

04 November 2005

Delicate Post: Depression

This post will be a bit unusual and may disturb some people, but I write it as I write most of this journal--for me. I'd like to talk about my Wednesday session, where I made a major error in judgement, playing poker in what can only be described as a state of depression.

I won't bore you with the details of how I came into this state of depression. Suffice it to say that there are several usual suspects: a failing business which I now have come to the conclusion I need to close and pursue employment, physical ailment (discussed before), and overall stress. I made the what can only be termed irrational decision to move up to $30/60 and distributed $800 to the others at the table. I won't go into hands played (as I played many more hands and the wrong ones) or unfortunate circumstances (QQ vs AA). I would rather document where I was, where I am, and any lessons learned.

Poker is a release for me, especially live. I'm not sure where I fall in my motivation to play. Part of it is the competition, part is the anonymity or being with people I normally would not be with, part is detaching mentally from life challenges, part is being successful. The money has not been a motivator, although I've never consistently played nor won enough where the funds have been material to our lives. I am a relative newbie to gambling in general, having started with blackjack in 2002 from a client who frequented Vegas and would play min hands of $100 often. Blackjack was much more financially dangerous due to the large swings and general -EV. I've been bankroll positive with poker for at least the last two years, although I don't play live very often at all as our client base has dwindled significantly.

My psyche has fluctuated near the bottom curve for the last nine-fifteen months, but the last couple of months have been particularly bad. I've been moodier at times, more insular (if that is possible, as I really have limited daily interaction wtih anyone other than my wife). I've always been active in the church that we've attended as we've moved around the country, but the one we attend has been a struggle for me. My only real areas of comfort have been my boys, the soccer team that I coach, and poker. I don't drink at all (as in I've never had a drink), so I don't have other self-destructive releases that I assume others may have.

I do feel that I have a problem as my general malaise has increased and lengthened. All of the above isn't meant as a pity plea, but more to bring us back to the purpose of this blog, the Closet Poker Player. And the core questions are:
  • How do I identify when I am in a bad state?
  • What should my rules be about poker?
I'll give some initial thoughts for the second question. First, I would say that I need to avoid playing during these times. I think it sets up a bad pattern, where I start to retreat into poker rather than being focused and prepared to play my best. I think it sets up a reward system where I would be rewarded for a negative situation, which is not good training. I'm not sure if I need to read much into my action of moving up to $30/60. I don't know if it was to feel something, to have action. There wasnt' really a decision, as it was more that I was suddenly clicking the open seat and posting the bb.

Being a Closet Poker Player may also be contributing to all of this, I'm not sure. Again, for anyone who actually reads this, I didn't mean for this to be a big downer, but I thought it was important to stay candid not only in my decisions to play Ax but also what I'm really going through. As a prologue (if that's the right word), I jumped back into $15/30 yesterday and ended up +$600 or so, which included twice getting raised on the turn when KTo caught 2nd pair and I had AJ and AQ respectively and had paired board. I'll continue to keep you posted, but if there is anyone who would like to put their thoughts or experiences, I'd be open to reading them.

02 November 2005

Sick, and Sick

OK, I have a new rule: don't play when you are sick. Have lost $800-900 in the last 36 hours. Not sure how much of it is due to being ill, how much is due to negative circumstances (99 with a flop of AT9, losing to AA; AA losing to KJ on flop of KQx). Regardless, I've hit a skid. The challenge is how do you stay away. I'm still not feeling 100%, very tired, and I don't want to take any more of a hit.

I'm also considering dipping back into the tourney world. I've never cashed, either online or live, except in freerolls locally. A positive could be that it would consume time while playing. I've let my discipline slip, playing hands I shouldn't play, calling down when I know I'm beat, all the usual seen ad nauseum on all the blogs. This will be short, but my focus is not to play today or tomorrow, to try and get my physical and mental faculties back.

I'll post again if I play in a few minutes!
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