31 January 2006


A quick shoutout to top blogs and websites that I frequent. My needs are similar to those mentioned by alot of folks: regular updates, ability to comment and be responded to, and poker-related (fairly liberal in that regard):
  • Up for Poker: authored by three legends of the poker blogging universe, it's among the best of the best.
  • Table Tango: Linda Geneen is a veteran dealer at the Bellagio. She gives great stories of big games and small, as well is quite matter-of-fact regarding her view on folks.
  • Will Wonka: Great data and analysis in a non 2+2 way, more of an I'm-struggling-to-get-better way that I can definitely relate to. Here's hoping that his time on injured reserve doesn't last too long.
  • Life of a Poker Player: Luke Kim is a diligent player making a living in Vegas. He isn't the most prolific at times, and I would like to see him expand more as I always enjoy him.
  • Pokerretards: Wes is one of the more diligent poker play bloggers, always adding solid insight and advice along the way.
  • Sound of a Suckout: It is easy for the long-time bloggers to get stale; I mean, how many times can you write about your own donkified play or getting beaten by some stupid runner-runner play? Scurvy never gets boring in my mind, which is a credit for the veteran blogger.
  • Cardplayer: The source for tourney updates. I'm constantly at this site during most big tourneys, following my favorite players as well as watching the brutal beats.
  • PokerCats: kurokitty is a fellow Atlanta blogger. I personally like the mix-it-up nature of his posts, a poker blog that can expand at times. Good stuff, and one of my new favorites.
Most of these are well-known, although some may be new to you. For those who visit here, thanks for your contributions, and I hope this can aspire to some of the goodness listed above.

30 January 2006

Ending the Month

I made it home Saturday morning after 25 hours from entering the plane in Singapore to departing in Atlanta. I reaked of Clorox the whole way back from Seoul and was lucky not to miss the flight from Seoul as I fell asleep in the Korean Air Lounge. I kept waking up every thirty minutes, then cut it a bit close. I got sick of watching the same movies over and over. Finished Harrington's Volume 2, which is a must for anyone who wants to be diligent about playing tourneys. I didn't crack the laptop all weekend as I fought through fatigue. I took one nap Saturday then fell asleep in my 7-year old's bed at 8:00. I woke up Sunday morning at 4:00, then fell asleep last night around 8:30 or so. I'm a bit tired now, but hopefully I can press on.

I went to the dentist for the first time in a couple of years today. This is inexecusable for an adult as gum disease can start setting in if you don't get cleaned regularly. Dentist are 1000% better than when I was a kid. Then, it really was a horrible experience. I had one cavity and have to go back in two weeks. They also were on me about not getting my wisdom teeth out, so I'll at least go to the consult to see what we're talking about.

It's great to see Negreanu back hitting his stride in Tunica, winning the WSOP tourney there. Admittedly, he had become a bit overextended. I think what that really did was affect his preparation and the regularity of his play. Once you get to the level he's at, I think it's less about what to do with A7o and more to do with preparing yourself for all of the situations you'll confront.

Had a quick hour to burn before my dentist appointment, so I played a quick SNG at Party ($30+3). Came in third when my A8 ran up against AA, which is never really that good to run up against when you're down to three. I won't be playing tonight and probably not tomorrow, so it looks like I booked a small gain for the month of January, +$500 or so. Not great by any stretch, but primarily all major losses found in playing NLHE (giving large sums away with strong hands being beaten by two pair or sets) and a couple of bad $15/30 sessions (short run of playing bad cards). But a win is a win, so let's decide that it sets things up nicely for a solid positive February.

Top Five Losing Hands for January (Party hands--2,654; FullTilt hands--3,233):
  • P-AQo FT-QQ
  • P-77 FT-A7o
  • P-KJo FT-77
  • P-AKo FT-K9o
  • P-87o FT-Q9o
Top Five Winning Hands for January (Party hands--2,654; FullTilt hands--3,233):
  • P-KK FT-AA
  • P-KQo FT-KK
  • P-97s FT-AKs
  • P-QJo FT-QJs
  • P-A9o FT-A8s
Worst Session: -$545, 20 minutes, 26 hands ($15/30 Party Limit), highlighted by TT losing to 92 full house
Best Session: +$689, 146 minutes, 198 hands ($15/30 Party Limit)
Top Pot Won: $547 with KK, flopping top set ; $537 with 97s flopping full house; $507 with QTs turning straight

Have to fly to Kentucky to see a client Wednesday. I have to decide whether to get rid of this client or keep them on a year. I'll keep you posted.

27 January 2006

Goodbye Singapore

Have to check out of the hotel in thirty minutes, so a quick shower and then check out, last minute gifts for the boys, then dinner and to the airport. A final 221-hand Party session with a river misread when I raised thinking I had made the straight, still some gaps in the fraidy-scared value bet, some verbal warfare with some jerk who would type "u idiot" every time he lost any hand, second best flush out of three when third diamond hit the turn (everyone trapping, so guy got three-bets on river from two of us). With all of that and some donkified other plays, still a +$386 session, so I'll take it.

22 hours from start to finish when I board the airport, including a five-hour layover in Seoul. Thanks for everyone who commented and visited during the journey--kept me going at times. Later.

UPDATE: A great dinner with new friends at an Indian restaurant on Boat Quay, getting to watch fireworks over Singapore. And an eventful flight here to Seoul. As I was sleeping soundly, I'm awakened by the cold red wine of the guy next to me, his full glass spilling all over my left leg. Brilliant. No apology, of course. I'm then pampered by all of the stewardesses through the flight. Someone produces rub on bleach, so most of the wine stain is either gone or looks like I've peed on myself. I no longer smell of Bordeaux, but now have the ripe smell of Clorox. Waiting for lounge to open, then hopefully I'll get my laptop up and running.

26 January 2006

Leak to Fix: Fraidy-Scared River Check

OK, one of my major leaks I guess I knew but I'm admitting: the afraid-of-being-raised-river-check-instead-of-value-betting. It is caused by the scare card during active pots hitting the river: the third suit, the third straight card, the paired board. I normally halt on the river unless I have some big pair, which then gets occasionally cracked by the rivered straight, etc. You guys will probably have much better stats, but this is a blind estimate of what happens when the scare card hits and I bet it:
  • Raised by the winner: 10%
  • Raised by a losing hand: 5%
  • Folded: 35%
  • Called by loser: 40%
  • Called by winner: 10%
These numbers are just a whack with no data, so I'd like to hear other thoughts on this. So I tried to change this, and here are the hands from a FullTilt $8/16 session (198 hands):
  • KTo call from the button vs UTG raiser: K7s4s (called bet), T (raised better), 8s (check/and I check) she had AA
  • KQo raise from the button vs. limper: Q63 rainbow (check/I bet), 9 (check/I bet), 6 (check/I bet and called by 43
  • AQo sb call from UTG raiser: JcQd3c (I check/check), As (I check raise), Ts (I bet/raised) lost to KK (this was more a stupid river bet by me, braindead)
  • KK raised UTG+1 with three callers: 4c7h5d (I bet with three callers), 8h (I bet with one caller), Qh (I bet and he folded
  • AdKc I three-bet from bb with one caller: KhAcTc (I bet/called), 7c (I bet/called), 6c (I bet/called) he had AsQc
  • KK raised UTG called by sb: T52 rainbow (he bets/I raise/called), Ad (check/I bet/called), 8c (check/I bet/called), he had JJ
  • 99 I three-bet from button -1/called by initial raiser: 838 (she checks/I bet/called), 4 (check/bet/call), J (check/I check); she has AT
  • QsJd I call raiser from bb with two other callers: 4c5cJs (I bet/one caller), 4s (I bet/one caller), 3c (I check/he bets/I call), he takes pot with AcQc flush
  • K9o I call from sb with two limpers: 2h3h9h (I bet/one caller), 6c (I bet/one caller), 3c (I bet/she raises/I call), I lose to flopped flush with Ah6h (NOTE: she needs to raise the turn, not the river as a flopped set fills up with the paired board).
  • AhKh I three-bet from middle position with raiser staying and limpers out: 5c2s2h (check/I bet/called), 3d (check/I bet/called), Js (she bets/I call), she shows bluff with A8o
I think the last three hands are probably not illustrative of what I'm talking about, but I wanted to include them as they may provide some breadth to this. I don't think that this will be a simple leak to plug necessarily. Some of this is the emotional hit when you are kicked in the junk, either by the bad read (like the flopped flush), the stupid beat (my raised sb hand that I didn't list when my AA was cracked by the limping button of 5s2s who flopped two-pair), and the caught river hands. Physical things happen: I don't scream too much, but you turn your body, you lean back, your stomach feels a bit queazy. It is not pleasant. You also feel foolish and a bad player, that you couldn't figure out that this person had this, that they check/raised you so sweetly, because they knew I was a donkified, horrible player (and I pay off so many hands that this isn't much of a stretch).

So how do you fix this leak? From the above hands, I had seven opportunities presented (let's throw out the last three) in a 200-hand session (3.5% of hands). Of these:
  • Raised by the winner: 1
  • Raised by a losing hand: 0
  • Folded after my bet: 1
  • Called by loser: 3
  • Called by winner: 0
  • Fraidy-scared but won: 2
  • Fraidy-scared but lost: 0
I missed two bets that probably would have been called, I donkified bet to a K to make a straight once (and he had two), I value bet and won four of seven hands, with three of these being paid off by second best. I need to do more of this, but this looks very promising.

I couldn't get out of Singapore tonight, so I've got 36 hours to kill. I need to transcribe the tapes from my meetings (very tedious work). That would be very good if I could knock out this week's work before I board the plane. All the clothes made it here today. I can't gain any weight ever again so that these clothes will fit; otherwise, I probably need to give my wife my cash bankroll to pay for it. So let's hope I can stay motivated.

I don't railbird on FullTilt much, but this is a classic horrible play by Matusow at a five-handed $25/50 NLHE table with Allen Cunningham, and Dustin Dirksen (an online legend). Hey, I know none of us are pros (except Felicia maybe), but this is a classic donkified play that we've all done (I have for sure), but it doesn't get any uglier to watch than this.

Full Tilt Poker Game #403516540: Table Broadway (6 max) - $25/$50 - No Limit Hold'em - 2:32:55 ET - 2006/01/26 Seat 1: hotntot ($18,769.90) Seat 2: reztes757 ($5,007) Seat 4: AllenCunningham ($4,911.50) Seat 5: Dustin Dirksen ($29,741.60) Seat 6: Mike Matusow ($7,069.50) Dustin Dirksen posts the small blind of $25 Mike Matusow posts the big blind of $50 The button is in seat #4
*** HOLE CARDS ***
hotntot folds
reztes757 folds
hotntot: gg and gl everyone
AllenCunningham raises to $150
Dustin Dirksen calls $125
Mike Matusow raises to $600
Dustin Dirksen calls $450
*** FLOP *** [7h Kd 8c]
Dustin Dirksen checks
Mike Matusow checks
*** TURN *** [7h Kd 8c] [Th]
Dustin Dirksen checks
Mike Matusow bets $1,350
Dustin Dirksen calls $1,350
*** RIVER *** [7h Kd 8c Th] [As]
Dustin Dirksen bets $27,791.60, and is all in
Mike Matusow: so sick shoo tme
Mike Matusow has 15 seconds left to act
Mike Matusow calls $5,119.50, and is all in
Uncalled bet of $22,672.10 returned to Dustin Dirksen
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Dustin Dirksen shows [Jd Qs] (a straight, Ace high)
Mike Matusow shows [Kh Ks] (three of a kind, Kings)
Dustin Dirksen wins the pot ($14,287) with a straight, Ace high Mike Matusow is sitting out Mike Matusow: np
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $14,289 | Rake $2
Board: [7h Kd 8c Th As]
Seat 1: hotntot didn't bet (folded)
Seat 2: reztes757 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 4: AllenCunningham (button) folded before the Flop
Seat 5: Dustin Dirksen (small blind) showed [Jd Qs] and won ($14,287) with a straight, Ace high Seat 6: Mike Matusow (big blind) showed [Kh Ks] and lost with three of a kind, Kings

25 January 2006

What Goes Up...

The balloon bursts, what goes up must come down, variance: all that and more. Bankroll hit in the last three days on FullTilt and Party: FullTilt (-$500) and Party (-$1000). Some bad donkified beats (catching K on river with nothing but gutshot), tough beats (AK vs AJ catching J on river with A on flop), draws not hitting, sets getting flushed out, two-pair flops getting flushed out, bad traps (QQ vs 69o). So, all of that and most of the gains of a great run are gone. Not down, but all for naught. Throw in some no-cashing in MTT's and it's complete. One thing I'm not good enough at is changing tables when one of the following occurs:
  • AK and AQ getting called down by underpairs
  • KQs getting called down with A on bad board
  • Slipping into pot odds/marginal to bad calls (calling two-bets/re-raise from bb with two other callers and gapped suited connectors)
  • Raises cold called with nothing and catching
  • Middle to small pairs never catching
I'm bad at being able to move from these tables, so any thoughts or comments on criteria for table movement would be good. I'm on the last $20 of my sign-up bonus from FullTilt, which I'll sadly miss. I think it definitely sucked me into bad play, playing there with no one there just to work off the bonus.

One of the challenges confronting online poker is player attraction and retention. There are similarities to long-distance phone service in the '90's. If you recall (or I guess I should say, if you are old enough to have paid long distance bills in 1992), companies like WorldCom, Sprint, and MCI bought consumers using checks for switching. What they quickly found was that this attracted the wrong customers: consumers who switched and weren't loyal. It was false growth, empty revenue which would evaporate when the next deal from the next company came around.

This is not to say that we bonus junkies shouldn't chase this free money (and I'm definitely lite on the use of this). The bigger questions for the online poker community:
  • How do sites attract and expand the total player universe vs. stealing players from one another? Sign-up bonuses seem to be an excellent way to attract new cash players. One of the biggest problem in attracting players, I believe, is the credit card barriers in the US. I'm not sure how they can really address this unless they can create some sort of surrogate system (you use credit card to purchase a certificate).
  • Are there innovations which can be introduced to expand play? Private tables, innovative tourneys, private tourneys are all good starts. Other areas to explore: affinity/association marketing (marketing custom poker tourneys or leagues to groups like fraternities, associations, universities). College students have to be a significant percentage of online play: where is the March Madness-type tourney: first, you play tourneys to see who respresents your school, then that gets you into some sort of tourney.
  • Listening to different types of customers. Some of the new innovations seem to be headed in the right direction (the Party multi-table screen size modifier to have easier multi-tabling). Other communities to listen to: low-stakes players, sit-n-go players, MTT players.
  • Creation of a strong #2 in the market. PartyGaming, like it or not, owns the market. This is not healthy over the long haul, as without competition, innovation will suffer and short-term results will drive Party's decision making. Like any extremely strong #1, Party bears much of the burden to expand the poker universe, while competitors slug it out in taking market share from each other and from Party.
Would be interested in any thoughts, and I'll try and explore some of this further.

I might be able to sneak out of Singapore a day early, we'll see. I haven't been able to get on an earlier flight yet, but it may be possible. I don't have anything on Friday now, so I can get away possible. American Idol episode in North Carolina is on Star World here, which is nice to watch while playing. By the way: Simon is just horrible, telling the girl in the pink cowboy hat that he would have put her through. I can't stop laughing, so I've accidentally raised two pots because of the shaking.

And in the oh-by-the-way shoutout category: must see this post from Grubby. I'm not finished reading it, but he's just great and a great, hilarious episode as always.

22 January 2006

The $1700 Taxi Ride

Today was an off day (Sunday). I was awakened by a rogue alarm clock at 6:00, which sucked as I was sleeping sweetly. I pounded on the alarm, only to have it go off ten minutes later. After flopping around for fifteen minutes or so, I decided to get up and shower. I'm sort of stumbling with my Atkins diet after Shanghai, but I got back on for breakfast (although there were lots of good carb options, so I may jump off for the rest of the week). Found a church to go to, and it was a nice experience. It is quite profound to attend a service in a different country, in a different culture. As Americans, it is easy to Americanize God and faith, but to be one of two Westerners in a congregation of 700 people gave me time to pause, to think of how complex yet simple God is.

I then went to Raffles Jewelers, my main source of gift inventory for my wife. Introduced to Veronica Teo 12 years ago when I first came to Singapore, I have been a loyal customer every time I come to Singapore. The first time I returned, I had the items appraised when I got back to the US, and they appraised for 100-150% more than what I paid. Well, when I arrived, she wasn't there, the store name had changed, and all the stuff was junk. Depressed, I headed to the main branch that was listed on her business card, doubtful that I would find her--but there she was!! So I stocked up on some really nice things: earrings, bracelet, necklace with three hearts, and a single pearl necklace with yellow and white diamonds (very, very, very nice). Probably overdid it (I always do), but my wife is the most special, least thinking-of-herself person you can imagine, never materialistic.

I get a taxi, the driver's making chitchat, we start talking about Chinatown, he asks if I got anything for myself, do I want to go to a tailor. I've never done that on any of my Asian travels, but for some strange reason I let him U-turn and suddenly I'm in an Indian tailor's shop. I'm sitting on a stool, the lady tells me I want a suit, a blazer, and six pairs of trousers, then the tailor comes in. Now, I do need a suit (although I don't have to be in anything other than business casual to casual almost all of the time), and I do need another blazer, but how this is happening is beyond me. A special bundled price is given, I tell him I'll come back tomorrow, then we're back and forth. I somehow then agree to the suit, cut the pants down to three, then get upsold to the blazer also. So instead of a $4 cab ride, it winds up around $1700.

There seems to be an influx of Eastern Europeans into sumo wrestling. They aren't as fat, but they are massive guys of great strength. It's hard to tell how they did as all the names when they showed the final standings are in Japanese, but the loudest cheers were when they were tossed, and the other sumos seemed particularly energized when they were up against one. Other TV options currently are Australian Open (which had people playing that I didn't know, but now has Sharapova in playing in her lingerie, so that's what I've turned it to), Asian MTV, CNN, road rally, BBC, CNBC, and a whole bunch of Asian channels. Negreanu, Phil Ivey, and David Williams have been playing poker with Andy Roddick with Sharapova watching, from what I can gather (or at least Roddick has been playing poker, Sharapova has been watching, and the three pros have been in Roddick's private box when he's playing). Daniela Hantuchova is a cutie too, so I think this will stay on.

$5/10 LHE at FullTilt: limit is limit, but you can never not hate the bluffing runner-runner to beat you. You can't be angry at the play when you get flushed out, but it doesn't make it any easier to swallow. (An example to clarify, KcQc being check raised by TT on a flop of 7c8s2d, then 5c comes on the turn and 9c comes on the river). For the most part in limit, all you can do is make the right decisions then just deal with it. There's really no need in getting upset at it, especially because it really isn't bad play by the winner (he gets caught, makes the call, then has to call the four flush then catches the river). The more upsetting is the river catch of an overcard when the winner only had one (A6o on a board of TJ3 4 A beating KK) or the counterfeit (AJ beating T9s on a flop of T94 4 J). These plays are why we all play on a regular basis, so if you get hit by a couple of these kinds of beats, a few things to remember:
  • Check your stakes. If these beats are meaningful to your bankroll over the short term, then your playing at stakes that are too high (at least this I'm an expert in).
  • Tighten up. It is fairly common to loosen your standards when you see this as you're tilting, wanting to get back at the donkey. Make a point to go in the opposite direction, getting rid of small pocket pairs, face cards, suited connectors, baby aces. Don't start calling raises with marginal hands as most of the time you'll start falling apart.
  • Get more aggressive. Three-bet KQo, 99, QJs. When you do decide to get into a pot, make the donkeys pay. You'll get paid off overall, so pump it up. Even if the same guy lucks out several hands in a row, it's the right play overall.
  • Take a break. When all else fails, get up and take a break. It will save you cash, the cooler may happen, and you'll be back ready to play your best.
A good illustration of this is at my table now: he's won 7 of 15 pots since sitting down, including four-betting with A6 (flopping an open-ended straight draw and catching the 3 on the river vs. my JJ), catching a set of kings on the river with an A on the board on the flop (and he capped the flop and bet the turn, then raised his river set beating AKs). So, be thankful for him, stomach him, deal with him. Don't abuse him verbally, just make sure you know who he is.

Or she.

21 January 2006

Finally Singapore

A great day on my trip, seeing boarding Singapore Airlines in First Class, then checking in to my room at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia. Paris is my favorite place to travel because of my comfort there and the time my wife and I spent there when traveling. Singapore is a close #2 for me. Of course, I forgot that it feels like New Orleans in August all the time here (so no shorts or sandals packed). I have a big king size bed, a high speed internet connection, a bathtub that faces the harbor (similar to this view but picture my view from a building on the right side of this photo), sumo wrestling on TV, able to hit all of my favorite bloggers once again, and no more hard travel.

Let me quickly get a postscript of my time in and around Shanghai. I first visited China in 1995 I think, and I've been there six times (eight or nine if you include Hong Kong). Shanghai is probably the best of China, much better than Beijing. It is something to behold to see the rapid level of growth going on in China. First, a billion people really is alot, no matter how many ways you look at it. I was able to see the industrial revolution first hand, and I've posted a few things earlier about that (no heating of most industrial buildings). Engineers make around $10,000-15,000/year. Most people still travel on either scooters or bikes, with some factory workers living on location. I was able to see some very underdeveloped areas for the first time. What you see is the significant potential to continue expanding into low cost areas within China. The level of resource consumption is increasing dramatically, and I can't imagine growth not continuing there for the next twenty years at least. Not necessarily my favorite place in the world, but not bad by any stretch of the imagination. Shanghai traffic is worse than Atlanta, just dreadful. And I assume there were about as many legal poker rooms as in Atlanta, although I didn't inquire.

One of the strangest experiences was a massage by a blind masseuse. There were eight massage tables in one fairly chilly room (this was a commoners massage place rather than the high-margin hotel spa). One guy got some sort of bizarre ritual where goldfish bowls were heated then sort of suctioned onto his back (like fifteen or twenty), then I'm not sure how long they lasted, then they are popped off. Well, one of them screwed up, and it looked like a charred marshmallow circle on his shoulder. I didn't get that, I got the $6 massage. A young, blind girl (probably sixteen-eighteen, maybe older) was led to me. She spoke minimal English, I guess massage English (turn over, back to me, are you cold), and she then proceeded to do her best to push my vertebrae through my stomach, then though the table, then through the floor I guess. So, you sit there and try to be brave but then you wonder, if I'm paralyzed and can't speak Mandarin, will they just throw me out back? This young lady is paid who knows what to be led into this massage room and smash muscles all day. Blindness is something that I'm not confronted with ever, so it is off-putting. Hers was a methodical, mechanical movement, just very weird.

A couple of other random other topics then I promise poker. Saw Proof with Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, and Jake Gyllenhaal. Another movie I haven't heard of that is actually very good, and Paltrow is very good I think. Also saw Just Like Heaven, which was better than I expected. OK, I have to admit a movie has to be pretty bad for me not to like it, especially if it is in a theater, so take this with a grain of salt. Strangest song I heard in the van during my two-day travel ordeal: Crazy for You by Jesse Johnson (also on my iPod). Jesse Johnson was the guitarist for The Time, which was the Purple Rain antagonist band combating Prince. Spent alot of time listening to my iPod in the van, and my iPod is a strange mix to be sure. Great songs on my iPod (in no particular order): Say a Little Prayer (Aretha), Tennessee (Arrested Development), Lovesong (The Cure), Outstanding (The Gap Band), Virtual Insanity (Jamiroquai), Anotherloverholenyohead and I Wanna Be Your Lover (Prince), Primavera (Santana), La Tortura (Shakira), Kiss Me (Sixpence None the Wiser), Fragile (Sting), Fairy Tale (Toni Braxton), U2, The Police.

So hotel poker. Is there anything unique about playing in your hotel room? First, maximum sensory overload, with the TV on. For the Closet Poker Player, you have unlimited playing freedom, which is just great. I have to be careful with budgeting time, and being halfway around the world (+13 hours vs Eastern time) makes if a little light for finding players at night here/morning in the US. Add room service into the mix, and it's hard to argue against playing in a hotel room if you're going to play online. If you're hard core ten-tabling, then I guess it gets cumbersome bringing three screens with you, but you do get two checked bags...

One final note: is it possible not to just focus on a nemesis? A nemesis is someone who keeps taking you, either sucking out with their draws, raising you out of pots, or having the goods when you almost do. I often just laser focus on playing against them, most of the time to my own detriment. Does this happen to you, and how do you get out of it?

20 January 2006

Duck Tongue and Other Matters

The above image came up when I googled duck photo, which looks a whole lot better than a real duck (she's ducking, get it?).

I've been stuck and away from Shanghai for the last 48 hours, so here are some observations from the trip:
  • Dishes I didn't eat: duck tongue (alot of mute ducks walking around China), sea urchins, dried shrimp
  • Dishes I tried: fried chicken bones, fish head, mystery meats, mystery crunchy thing from the sea, puffer fish (poisonous unless prepared just right)
  • Dishes I liked: noodles, spicy beef, spicy fish, peanuts (today)
  • Dishes hard to eat: crab (nothing to break open the shells/claws), some fish with bones and scales, chicken (with bones and skin), goose (same), pork (same)
  • Quickes lunch: two hours
  • Traffic lanes are sort of a guide for drivers in Shanghai. You can pass at any time, regardless of how many lanes or how many cars are coing toward you. The nicest move on the trip was when we passed someone passing someone on a two-lane road with a car coming toward us. Cars just sort of avoid oncoming traffic.
  • Most folks ride their bicycles miles and miles in any weather possible. If they don't have a bike, they walk miles and miles. A passenger will ride side saddle on the back of a bike, with his/her legs facing the left. I would assume there are no American adults who could last more than fifty yards like this.
  • We always think of Chinese costs being lower because of low wages, which is true. Costs remain low also by not heating any buildings. That includes restaurants (turn on a space heater when you book a room) or offices.
  • You have to be a little concerned when you go to a spa and two fifteen-year old boys who are locker attendants are grinning at you as they are taking your clothes off while they push you into a shower. I've seen myself naked, and that grin isn't really justified (unless it was laughing).
  • I'm not quite sure if there are ever specific schedules or times for meetings. We would miss a time by three hours with no apparent concern from anyone.
  • I can never embrace having to wear the same clothes two days in a row when on business.
Some poker at FullTilt Wednesday night. Ended up losing $379 in NLHE after being up around $400. Most of the loss due to overplaying high pairs after the flop, losing to a flopped set and a flopped two pair. Major leak for sure, and I still can't figure out how to play at FullTilt and be able to work off my bonus with no one actually playing there. I've been able to build my Party account to $2000 after the $400 buy-in in December.

I'm finishing Harrington's Volume II. I think I have to think a whole heck of a lot more when I'm playing than I currently do, or at the very least in tourneys. I'm a long way from mastering Harrington's methodology. I think it will take a great deal of simulator work to be able to automatically make all of the marginal decisions that he puts forward. The short version: make plays with hands when you have the right odds (meaning calling, raising, whatever with pot odds, implied pot odds, odds of players having hands, all that stuff). One really big question that I'd be interested in thoughts from everyone out there: is Harrington's advice only successful when you play a large number of tourneys. It also seems to be part of Raymer's you-can-only-make-the-best-decisions theory, although he's much more aggressive.

One quick note: thanks for everyone who has commented, and keep it up. As I've said earlier, I can't respond from Shanghai as I can't see blogs, but I have read them and I do thank you. Off to Singapore tomorrow morning. After a long shower and a big Western meal.

16 January 2006

The Price for Fish

After a great day of +$1200, a quick return to $100 NLHE at Party demonstrates a few cardinal rules of play: play within the bankroll so that you can deal with the variance that you want to be there when folks chase. I made my $84 buy-in at the $100 max table. Fluctuated between $100 and $160 by exploiting some sets, etc. Was then knocked cold by two hands in a span of five minutes. First hand: I call $3.50 with the raiser on my right (blinds fold), with a pot of $8.50. I hold AKo, and flop comes AJ9 rainbow. Raiser bets $4, I raise another $8.64, and he calls. Turn comes 8, raiser checks, I bet $25, and again a call (he has $20 left). Q comes on the river, he bets his last twenty, and I'm assuming I'm now beaten with AQ or AJ, only to see KTo after my call.

Second hand I have 98o in the big blind. There is a caller then a raise to $4, the button calls, the small blind and I call, and the first limper folds (so $17 in the pot). Flop comes Q98 with two spades. SB checks, I bet $15, raiser folds, button calls, and the other guy folds (pot is now $47, I have $59.25 left). Turn is 5h, and I go all-in for $59.25. She cold calls with KsJs, then catches 6s on the river to make the flush, saying she had alot of outs. She's 27% to win after the turn, although she said that the two non-spade kings were outs which improved it a bit (if I only have a queen).

A few key learnings from these two hands. The first hand is a much worse play, 17% to win after the flop and 18% after the turn. I'm not quite sure how you keep chasing a gutshot twice (or at least I could never pay the above price to do it). The second hand was at first blush not as bad a play with the flush draw screaming at you as well as the gutshot. Of course, we want players to chase these things, but I think the key learning is that you play at stakes where losing these two hands in a row doesn't deplete your bankroll. Of course, I was alot more fortunate with this than I could have been. I could have been covered by the first guy and had to re-buy. I could have had more money with the second guy than I did, although I had plenty. The real aha is in NLHE, you have to play at stakes or at a buy-in that you're totally willing to lose. I see this differently than limit, which has as a significant advantage the mitigation of risk, the limit of loss when you get chased down. Especially at these lower stakes, in NLHE I specifically play gapped suited connectors and call the $3 raise focused more on the implied odds of the monster, hidden hand rather than the lost bet.

Not too tough a work day, leaving for breakfast at 7:30 and returning to my room at 3:45 this afternoon. All other days will be tough, so I need to enjoy this while I can. I slept eleven hours last night after getting a massage. Not that I'm homophobic, but I insisted on a female masseuse as the one time I've had a guy provide a massage it was a bit creepy. You have to be a bit careful with a request for a massage in Asia as you never know what services may be provided. I almost fell asleep toward the end of the massage, the hot stone massage. Of course, I smelled like oil all night, but I'll take it.

To bed now.

POSTSCRIPT: I can moderate comments but I can't respond to them while I'm here in Shanghai. It is very nice to of course have folks visiting this blog, but when I'm away from home this long, it is especially a treat to read your thoughts and comments (even flames are fine). Thanks for any comments, and keep them coming.

14 January 2006

Damn Tristan!

Watching Legends of the Fall while doing this. Why all men hate Brad Pitt yet secretly wish we were him...

Shanghai Day 2 is similar to Day 1: pass out early in bed, wake up at 2:30AM, flop in the bed for an hour, get up and watch movies, then hit Party and FullTilt. Was up as much as $1250 playing $15/30 on Party, then gave back about $550. Made some dumb plays on half of the $550 and just beaten by some flopped two pairs and a couple of other hands on the other half. The table was great, with alot of action and good prospects of getting paid off. I won probably one of the biggest $15/30 pots ($560) with a set of kings on the flop and an ace on the turn. All in all, I made some good plays and played well plus got paid off with some good hands, so I'll take it. Now the real test begins: can I keep it and build on it at Party, and can I get FullTilt above $1000. I've been treading water there with the small table selection, basically break even when you exclude working off the sign-up bonus. I haven't tried any of the other sites for cash games, so I'll leave it to you guys to direct me anywhere else.

Legends of the Fall--not exactly a feel-good movie. I mean, everyone dies for the most part with Anthony Hopkins slobbering after his stroke. Whatever. Fighting the grizzly at the end, alright Brad. Every woman's dream, every man's nightmare...

My wife suggests that I leave the hotel today. That's something to think about, should I leave the hotel or not? Visibility is about half a mile from the pollution combined with either fog or just the pollution. My hotel, the St. Regis, isn't exactly in the middle of a hotbed of Shanghai. When I get to Singapore I'll explore around, but I don't feel too comfortable or interested wandering around. I don't feel unsafe or anything, just don't have a ton of interest exploring. I'll update later.

13 January 2006

Shanghai Greetings

Hello from Shanghai. A bit of a long flight, departing from LAX at 2:00PM on Thursday Eastern US time and into my hotel room at 8:30AM on Friday. The best thing I did was to email the hotel to arrange for transportation from the airport. Very, very sweet to see someone welcoming me when I got out of customs, whisk me to the Mercedes. Even sweeter, no check-in--they just greeted me, took me up to my room, went over stuff, then delivered my luggage. Watched The Corpse Bride and In Her Shoes, which was significantly better than I expected (although I have a poker blog, which is a bit gay, not that there's anything wrong with that). Also saw the Skeleton Key, which is a bit creepy. I connected in Seoul, so flight there from LA was 12 1/2 hours. One weird thing is I can't reach my blog from here--they may not let folks to blogs, I don't know.

FTP NLHE $2/4 blinds, I have AKo in sb when UTG raises to $14, I call with two other callers (pot is $56). Flop comes K94, I bet $44 and everyone folds to the button who raises all-in. So two bad things: one, I don't even hesitate cold calling to see the 99 flipped over (I call with $160 more). Second is that of course it holds up. So is this a major leak in cash NLHE, just poker and you're going to lose that, or do you good players lay that down? I think it's an absolute leak for me not to even think, "What would this guy raise with?" Anyways, would be interested in you better NLHE cash players regarding TPTK and how you get away from it (% of the time you can get away vs. getting hurt). I was able to claw my way back from two re-buy's, doubling through with KT vs. AdTd with a K and two diamonds on flop. (Of course, I've just gotten back down $170 with a short-stacked set taking my 99 and a button slow playing KK to my flopped pair of queens with an ace on the turn).

I'm getting somewhat comfortable in cash NLHE, although I still seem to get my clock cleaned with good hand vs. set/straight. This can't be some sort of Eureka! moment for everyone else, (the hours of boredom and minutes of being terrified or whatever the saying is). There sometimes seems to be a fine line for between playing solid and fraidy-scared. Sometimes, I lay down the marginal hands pre-flop because I don't want to hit a flop and have to play it (I mean here when there is a raiser pre-flop). Hands include mainly paint (KJo, KTo, QJo). I think it fluctuates between playing solidly and being scared--mainly being scared if I've just taken a hit, I think. I still prefer limit to no-limit in cash games, but the challenge is how to play at FullTilt and still play limit when there are virtually no tables. I don't know how to get that figured out.

12 January 2006

Bicycle Poker Room Review

I've just gotten back from the Bicycle. The fog outside is so think (pea-soup fog) that couldn't see the steering wheel as I was driving. The Bicycle is a very active poker room. When you first go in, you immediately forget the grandeur of Bellagio or Borgata and think of bingo halls or casinos like Casino Arizona. Meaning that this is just hard core. It has to rival Casino Arizona as a home for lower limit as they had a ton of various smaller games. They also had an area for Mexican Poker, which I didn't check out. They have a loyalty program and come around hourly to scan the card. They were spreading various buy-in maximums for NLHE ($100, 200, 500), although they didn't have any limit available at $10/20 or 15/30. The chips are the sort of magnetized version. I don't particularly like them.

I did play in the $40 NLHE 7:00 tourney with unlimited re-buy's in the first hour. I had one add-on and that was it. I was able to win a few early pots and got the eye of some of the regulars, limping with AA then betting the flop, and raising/re-reasing with JJ vs KQo. I played really well, folding either marginal hands or hands I wanted to avoid, coming over the top a few times (one veteran I re-raised pre-flop said he laid down his QQ, when I had re-raised with ATs). I believe there were 85 players or so, and the top 18 paid. I worked hard to stay focused and perform as I had been taught. I made a great call of an all-in with A7o when I had the guy on undercards (and not a ton more chips). I also played fairly aggressively as we approached the money. I wanted to be sure I stayed focused during the tourney. When we reached the final table, the blinds were $2000/4000 with a 300 ante, so there was$9000 in the pot prior to starting betting. I picked up the blinds and antes a few times when we were closing in on the money.

I was knocked out in 8th along with another caller knocked in 9th. I was in the bb and only had another $4200 to call the button's all-in. Both of us stayed in, the button calling with AJ. I'm about to fall asleep, but I really played my best, so that's all I can ask for.

I just typed some more about the tourney, but it got lost and I need to head to breakfast and LA traffic. The blind structure was such that at the end it was a crapshoot vs cowardly waiting exercise, so I'm OK with my first tourney cash of $240. Bicycle was +$300 for the trip, so I'll take it. I'm off to the airport and Shanghai where I'll post next.

POSTSCRIPT: Korean Air Lounge I've checked in and have a couple of hours to play I mean to wait before I board. A few more observations from the Bicycle:
  • The Bell Gardens/Downey area is a Pepsi stronghold, which is no good for me.
  • Saw Chris Karagulleyan, winner of Legends of Poker WPT Season 1 (the guy in the suit that blinked all the time).
  • The Bicycle uses plastic cards. More and more casinos are headed this way, but I'm still not used to the feel of the cards. It is more difficult to slide them back and forth, and they have a plasticky (sic) feel.
  • The magnetic chips I'm not that big a fan of. They seem slightly magnetized and are a bit cumbersome to handle.
  • I haven't played in enough re-buy tourneys to really understand what I'm supposed to do. I played really strongly in the beginning, accumulating 2800 in chips, when there was a final add-on and folks could buy up to 1500 in chips, virtually wiping out all of the work I had done. I'm reading Erick Lindgren's new book regarding tourney play, and he briefly touches on the value of chips in re-buys. I need to both practice and get a better plan.
  • I've thought a bit about the end game last night. I still think I played my best, but there were a couple of hands that I've thought hard about. One was a raiser in early position when we were down to two tables. I had around 8500 in chips, the raise was for around 3000, the pot should have been something like 2700, and I had A7o. I made the call earlier when we were four tables with the same hand and the raise was something like 1200 and I had chips. I think these are some of the situations where you have to push your edges.
  • I've also been reading Dan Harrington's second book where he uses the value M to equal your chips divided by the pot. When you are in the <5>
  • Tourneys sure take a long time with minimal payout unless you can get in the top three. It was nice playing my best through the entire tourney, really every hand. That was a major breakthrough. Several times I mucked marginal to good hands that I normally would have lost chips to: 99 in early position, QJo, etc. That was some major encouragement and gets me excited about playing in tourneys. Playing my best was a step forward, as well as better evaluation of players (able to raise out the looser players, attack players going on tilt, able to evaluate when to make a stand, etc.
My beautiful bride just called on my cell, so I'm off. I'll check in when I get in Shanghai.

11 January 2006

24 Hours in LA

Incredibly funny show on TBS last night, Daisy Does America, produced by Courtney Cox and David Arquette. The show is about a Brit, Daisy, who tries out different jobs in America (wedding planner, rapper, dog show handler). She basically acts like a dork, asking people ridiculous questions when they take themselves too seriously. Daisy tries to first learn high-stakes poker, then seduces Barry Greenstein, trying to convince him to propose to her. A great tour of his home where she repeatedly asks him how much various things cost. The entire episode isn't great, but Barry is priceless.

So, I decided on the Bicycle for the stop in LA. The Welcome Center was helpful getting me a room at a local Embassy Suites. There is a $40 tourney at 7:00 tonight, so I may play this. Felicia Lee suggested hitting the soft NLHE tables. I'll come back with a good debrief of what i find. I may play in the tourney, but I need to check out what we've got.

10 January 2006

Playing When You Aren't Prepared, and Happy Actual Birthday

I want to explore a particularly relevant poker question that Obituarium, a renowned poker blogger, hinted at in a recent post. He was talking about playing in MTT's when he didn't feel 100%, and this got me thinking about the following: should you play if you aren't prepared to play your best? And what percentage of your play is when you aren't prepared to play your best? I think online I play at least half of the time not prepared to play my best, either multi-tasking, in front of a television, sneaking in a quick session, or being tired. Live is much less, probably due to a combination of the sunk cost of being at the card room (in my travels) as well as the physical waiting time as I am on a list. And if you are going to play when you aren't prepared to play your best, what are the keys to improve your performance or mitigate your risk? Let me submit a couple of keys, but feel free to comment on any and all of this:
  • Bluff and fake less. I tend to get on losing runs by not paying enough attention to who I'm playing pretend poker against, donking off bet after bet to the same people who call me down with middle pair.
  • Get rid of marginal hands. This may sound like Poker 101, but when I'm not prepared I tend to misplay marginal hands more often, chase more with no rhyme or reason. I'll chase a gutshot for a special rush vs. any logical reason.
  • Play below your normal limit. This is risk mitigation, as well as a way to play more recklessly or donkified without hurting your bankroll.
  • Mix up your game selection. Sit at a Razz lowest limit table, Stud, low-limit SNG, whatever you wouldn't normally do. Prepare for your head to hurt if you select a game you don't normally play (like Omaha H/L where you aren't sure if you are going to win both or lose both after you're done).
  • Play the play money tables. This can be absolutely stupid to do for sure when you're at a Party all-in max on every hand table, but you'd be surprised what it's like to return to the roots of how many of us started playing online. You're able to remember the newbie mistakes you used to make, watch the #@*! comments when you donkifiedly take some imaginary chips away from someone.
  • Work the simulator. If you don't have Poker Academy or Wilson Turbo, then you need to get one of them. If you do, then mixing in some specific simulator work can be a good alternative when you're not at your best, especially if you can work on some specific things like short-handed or marginal hands.
  • Document and analyze. This should be a given, but you need this feedback especially when you aren't at your best to determine how dangerous it is for you individually to play when you aren't adequately prepared.
  • Set braking limits. Have a set time and amount that you're willing to put at risk when you're not at your best and stick to it.
My 41st year is now behind me, and it was a trying year for sure. This was the year after losing my company's major client, one that I had worked every waking hour on to drive their marketing and growth aspirations only to see them cast aside after they went from #7 in the market to #2. It was a shock to the system this time last year (it happened in October 2004) , as I had to figure out should I continue to have this company or should I go back into corporate world. My wife and I decided to give it one more year, work to pursue new business as well as do what needed to be done to not move yet find a job if necessary. The verdict: I let my five employees go in March after paying them from October-February with no billable work, was able to book three new clients, but have been struggling to make a solid business around this. My network of contacts and easier employment prospects are outside the Southeast US, so job search would most likely move us. I think my wife and I are both OK with that prospect as self employment has been a troubling experience, with financial anxieties increasing and personal rewards diminishing.

Poker has been one of my few releases, especially live. It has been a place to escape these things, although a place also that takes me away from my wife both physically and emotionally. This year, my poker results need to augment our actual income rather than be a fluctuating bankroll in my pocket. Online results were negative for 2005 and live were positive. This needs to change if poker will continue to be part of my life. I'm able to justify the losses as my hobby, but I need this hobby to contribute back to the home front not only to ensure continued support but to be a good use of my time.

There are always advantages and disadvantages to any and all situations and decisions. Our boys are still quite young, so moving would not be a real challenge to them. I am definitely underutilized professionally, and much of my self esteem is tied to my work and especially the ability to contribute and bring value. Consulting for a small firm can be a real challenge in that arena: you are often seen as an expense, you can be kept at arm's length, you rely on less talented folks to execute with no ability to drive or motivate. It is a real blessing, though, to be able to put the boys to bed at night and to sleep in the same bed as my wife most nights (when I haven't retreated to the couch in the piano room).

So to all of you who have come by and contributed thoughts, ideas, and encouragement, thanks. I'll continue to document my meanderings at the felt, whether at live tables during my travels or online.

09 January 2006

Birthday Extravaganza Day 4: Back to the Grind

Just finished my expenses from the December travels. Total: $22,747.61, which include $13,643.81 in airfare and over $500 in phone/internet fees. I'll be copying these receipts for a couple of hours, and who knows if the client will be able to make heads or tails of all the travel and pounds to dollars etc.

So, I also blew my $205 FTP $5/10 buy-in over 166 hands. I did donk off a chunk of it by raising KK with 44 and all overcards on the board, but let's get real a bit:
  • First hand: I defend my BB with Kh4h and a caller in front of me. 4cAdKd is sweet, and check to the better and one caller then raise with the better re-raising and the caller getting out. Ks on the turn is sweet, although I'm sweating AK for sure. I quit worrying about that when I bet and am called, only to see the worst Ah on the river. I check/call to see AJ.
  • OK, I'm still not sure why I bet into KK with 44, as well as into AK with a K on the board when I had AQ, so let's set those aside for a moment as temporary insanity.
  • Top pair bad kicker to limped AA (almost flushed out on him, so I've got no problem losing to limping AA ever unless it's in NLHE and it takes all my money away)
  • Top pair to A5 with an ace on the river
  • KQ vs KJ catching the J on the turn when the K flopped
  • A7o vs A6s catching the flush on the river
  • Somehow getting pocket pairs and AQ five hands in a row and never improving
Now that I typed all of that out, it goes back to 24% VPIP, playing too many hands while multiplying Euros and Pounds to figure out these expenses.

For the cube monkeys out there, here is a scary thought: I own the company, have no employees in my office, so I have no one to watch me throughout the day, which is probably like having a junkie work in the basement narcotics evidence warehouse place or pharmacy or some sort of analogy. It is really an incredible feat that I don't play 16 hours a day, so I'm proud that I'm typing this rather than playing.

I'm either going to stop in at Commerce Casino or the Bicycle. Anyone who has been to either/both I'd appreciate any guidance. I land at 3:30 Wednesday then fly out 11:00AM Thursday LAX-Shanghai with a stop in Seoul, so I'm going to try to play through the night and sleep on the plane.

POSTSCRIPT EDIT: I've had some great comments and discussion with Felicia Lee regarding her post on what she thinks makes a good poker blog. I thought of one other characteristic, but first let me digress a little more into why I responded. Felicia is in the small group of poker bloggers that are both excellent players and excellent bloggers. That seperates her from the best poker bloggers (Pauly) and the better players (Arieh, Negreanu), so my response was in some ways a self analysis regarding is this blog that I have any good, as well as a response to her. A bit self centered and defensive on my part, but there it is. So another characterstic that makes a good poker blog, in my opinion:
  • Candor: the best put reality out there, whether it be donking off their cash, sucking out, whatever. I think honesty and candor bring a fresh reality to the content. It is related to Felicia's characteristic on opinion, which is also key.
So there you go with that.

So Maybe This Poker Blog Sucks...

Felicia Lee is a great blogger, as well as a terrific player who has been through alot. I stumbled upon her blog in the early days of this blog, and I value her thoughts. But is she a bit extreme about her characteristics of a good poker blog?

1) Don't post bad beat stories
2) Don't post hand histories
3) Don't whine about losses
4) Don't post pics of kids or pets
5) Give your opinion
6) Are you a poker journal, or not?
7) Try to act serious about your play
8) If you are going to enable comments, actually REPLY when someone leaves one

OK, here's my response:
  1. Last table I sit down at $100 NLHE with a $79 buy-in and wait for the big blind to post. I catch QQ, there is a raise to $4 UTG and UTG+2 re-raises to $20. I call and the original raiser folds, and our pot is $44. Flop comes 898, I check, re-raiser bets $40, I go all-in for the last $19.70, then 9 3 come and he flips over AA. Earlier $5/10 hand, I make a speculative two-bet raise call with Q9s (ends up capped). Flop comes A8T, and I check call with one other caller and one bettor. J comes on the turn, the money card making my straight, I check, guy bets, other guy raises, I re-raise, guy folds, other guys caps, I call. T hits river, and I check/call to see the JJ flip over. Most bad beat stories aren't bad beats (see these two examples). Some are unfortunate circumstances (QQ vs AA with an undercard flop), some are suckout/re-suckout (turn the straight, get beat by the boat on the river). Everyone has had them, if you've played a ton you've seen almost all of them. To me the only really bad beats are the bluff in early position that catches runner-runner when they had nothing to start with. Most everything else is just a combination of poker. Bad beat stories make a bad poker blog? In moderation, they're fine, but there's no need to see them ad nauseum.
  2. I'm in BB with TdTc, only to watch five limpers and two posters put in their $5 limp in front of me. I raise, there are a couple of calls then a re-raise, couple of calls then I cap. Pre-flop we're at $120 and five players. Flop comes 8d3d3s. I bet and everyone calls, pot is at $145. 7d hits the turn. I bet, call call raise fold I call call fold, so three to the river and the pot is $215. River is 2d putting four diamonds on the board. Everyone checks, and I draga a river-checked $215 pot with ten-high flush vs. 9d8h nine-high flush paired 8 on the board and a 7hJh two-pair bluff. Hand histories: heck, people enjoy reading them. Maybe after you've seen most everything they aren't interesting. We have 2+2 for hard-core strategy/hand analysis, but most of us newbie poker bloggers are telling hand histories to represent the terrific win, the crazy play, the donkey play of ours or someone else, the confusing play. Again, a little hand history is fine in moderation.
  3. Whining about losses, a topic near and dear to my heart. This occurs for several reasons, as a plea for help, as a cathartic way of justifying poor decisions, or a request for some sort of assistance. I've valued responses from bloggers like WillWonka and Wes, whether they're hang in there or you're stupid to play above your bankroll. Money is part of keeping score, so I don't have a problem about documentation if there is some context as well as point to it all.
  4. Kids and dog photos are fine (see Angel our Gordon Setter above). Any image spices up a blog a bit, so I think hating on pets and kids is a bit extreme.
  5. Opinions? I think that's all most of us have, so I'm good with that one.
  6. Poker journal vs. other topics. Some of the other topics flesh out a blog, whether it's Pauly's lap dances and urinal spotting, Mr. and Mrs. PokerSweetHome struggling with porn production issues, or whatever goes on in life, I think it brings some breadth and depth to the blog. I'm fine with keeping political diatribes to a minimum for sure, so I'm mixed on this one.
  7. I'm fine with this. I get queazy thinking about losing a big chunk of change to 58o as I've done, so I've got not problem keeping the wacky donkified luck to a minimum. Unless it is Pauly or it happened to me and I there was either some logic to what I was doing or it was a huge lucky pot.
  8. I agree with this. I'll either reply here or sometimes hunt a commentor down to reply on their blog.
So I think I would have to push back a bit on Felicia on her thoughts. I think she may be a bit too harsh in her assessment of what makes a good blog (especially as she seems mostly focused on what makes a poker blog bad). Let me add a couple of thoughts of what makes a poker blog great:
  • Depth: by this I mean getting the story behind the story, answers to questions like why do you play, what in your life pushes you toward or pulls you from poker.
  • Change: I'm really excited to see bloggers charting a new course then bringing the story, whether it is a decision to attack short-handed games, move up, go after tourneys, broaden to other games. Change is risk and will either yield better or worse results.
  • Detail: the more the better as it allows us to explore along with the blogger, to question, to criticize, to add opinion. I've gotten more help from both seeing detailed discussion as well as having comments from folks that have the energy to give me some insight.
That's enough as the dog and my wife are asleep on either side of me, so I'm going to book my +$45 Party tenure, which included my one hand QQ v AA loss, which was a cool -2391 BB/hr.

Oh, and I've booked my flights. Skipping Vegas, will fly to LA Wednesday and leave Thursday to arrive in Shanghai Friday.

07 January 2006

Birthday Extravaganza Days 1 & 2

A great two days of celebration of me for my birthday extravaganza. Even though my birthday isn't until Tuesday, we embrace the Sri Lankan five-day celebration of one's birthday (or at least I do). My brother and sister-in-law made it here yesterday afternoon after we went to the Georgia Aquarium. The aquarium was great, with two whale sharks (the only ones in captivity in the world), five Buluga whales, and lots more cool stuff. I had some panicky times when I called the service dealing with my Chinese visa. The receptionist said they hadn't received anything from me (supposed to receive on Thursday), so it would have put my trip at risk. I was a little freaked out which spoiled the end of the Aquarium for me, but I ended up OK.

So, my sister-in-law and brother made it, and my wife's brother got here around 7:30 last night. I had asked one neighborhood guy to come by, and he said he would after he flew back from Vegas. Everyone else fell through for the home game: the next-door-neighbor with the absolutely horrible kids acted like a jerk when I called, the down-the-cul-de-sac guy called with a no/working late (his college boys play constantly but won't come by), and a couple of other fell through. I was worried that Rich the neighborhood guy wouldn't show, but he knocked on the door after putting the little guy to bed (see photo above), and we had ourselves a regular short-handed card game. The line-up:
  • 1s: Sister-in-law (SIL), fatigues fairly easily as in normally passes out around 8:00, so I figure we could tire her out. Had forgotten most hand values.
  • 2s: My bride (Sweetness), can be very tough for sure, semi-tight passive but will make good reads and not back down
  • 3s: Rich, the neighborhood guy, plays limit (came back with a positive review of Caesar's Palace room playing $6/12)
  • 4s: My brother (Econ), absolutely loves to play, but is dirt poor eating normally once every other day. Only person in the history of Paul Phillips blog to be banned from posting then reinstated.
  • 5s: Brother-in-law (Clemson), tight/aggressive, plays weekly in live games in G-Vegas, plays mostly NLHE in G-Vegas and limit when we are able to get to Vegas
  • 6s: Birthday Boy (cc), prone to donkified bouts of horrible play, generally solid live in limit but doesn't play much NLHE. On Atkins diet, so eating alot of pepperoni and mixed nuts for snacks
We decided on $0.50 NLHE with a max $20 buy-in. I donked off my first buy-in out of position raising with ATo vs Rich on the button, who had AK and didn't mind the A hitting the board. This was maybe the third hand, which was quite nice. Of course I don't remember much of anything except for my play. SIL was knocked out first, limp/calling her way into oblivion although she took a nice pot from Rich. Clemson was forced to re-buy, and Econ got knocked out by Clemson. There was then a fifteen-minute discussion upstairs between the married couple regarding Econ's focus and how much to re-buy in for, when he returned to produce a max re-buy. Sweetness had a couple of great hands and reads, calling down Econ's Hilton sisters with K4o and a K on the board, then turning a straight with 9T after a flop of 783 and a J on the turn (I had AJs and doubled her up).

I started mixing it up more than usual five-handed in position, cold calling with junk hands waiting for flops to hit. My brother has a fatal flaw that I've had and have seen in lots of players. It's the big-cards-pretend-poker-out-of-position play. It basically goes where you raise, then bet the flop and turn in ever-increasing numbers, pretending to have something and hoping the other guy goes away. I didn't have a tell on him, but I was looking for a hand to make a stand. I called a raise to $3 with 57o, and the flop came 799. I think I checked, he bet $5, I raised $10 more, he thought forever before then going all-in for another $6.75 or so. I quickly called showing bottom pair, and he flipped over AT. He didn't connect, and he was out. It was a brutal play, and I think it was due to fatigue, Guinness, shame in getting picked off, and the money. He agreed today that it was a bad play, but you just can't make that call/all-in for your last $16 or so on that.

Down to four, I again waited for a trap opportunity that came on the button. Clemson was UTG and raised it to $3.75 to go. I had a pile of chips by this time, and I quickly called with 86o. The flop came J86, he bet, I raised, he re-raised all-in, and I called before he had gotten the word "in" out of his mouth. He flipped over QQ, the board didn't pair, and I took his chips. We called it a night at 2:00AM or so after five hours. Rich clocked out at $24.25 for a +$4.25 gain. Sweetness was +$29 for the night, and I had $105 for a profit of $65 including my re-buy.

After the little guy went to sleep for his nap today, we had our Birthday Freeroll Tourney. Rich was out but my two oldest boys (JHC 10 and All-in 7) played, which brought the tourney to seven players. I got prizes which I'll run through. All-in ran over the table like he normally does at the beginning. His fatal flaw is not being able to figure out (or care to figure out) when someone has something, so his dear mom took all his chips on successive hands, sending him back to play Harry Potter on the computer. Everyone had $500 in chips and blinds started at $1/2, so we had a good bit of play for quite awhile until folks started getting their clocks cleaned. Clemson raised all-in and put JHC to the test. He showed his mom his cards, and she quickly said that she would call. Unfortunately, he listened to her and called with 66 to Clemson's QQ. The ladies held up, and JHC was down after treading water for awhile. He doubled through Econ on the next hand, took Econ out later when Econ had raised in front of him with a board of JT9. JHC was holding KQs, which is a fairly nice hand for that flop, and Econ's tens sent him to the rail. Down to three players, JHC made an incredible play vs. Clemson. JHC was first to act with a flop of KQx, Clemson bet and was called, T came on the turn, and again a check/call from JHC. The 9 comes on the river, and JHC moves all-in with his last $800 in chips into a pot of $2,000 or so. Clemson had him covered with another $250 or so in chips, and he squirmed for at least three minutes trying to get a read on this ten-year-old. He finally says, "You've got to have the jack, but I just can't lay this down," and Clemson calls. JHC flips over a Q for second pair, and clemson turns over T9o for two pair, and my boy is sent to the rail in third place. Now, I should probably be arrested for all of this, but I couldn't be prouder of my eldest. I told him before we started, just play your best, that's all I ask. He laid down after losing his first $200 to All-in who had nothing, fought back short stacked fighting off discouragement, built his stack back, got brutalized by his uncle's overpair, doubled back through, made a great play to knock out his uncle and mom, then played back and forth and finally making a brilliant play at a major pot with his last $800. I ended up in second place to Clemson when I raised with my trusted 86o, caught a flop of K97, went all-in for a quick call from 94o, and watched blanks hit. The prize structure was as follows:
  1. Clemson: $25 Border's Gift Card
  2. cc: Saved DVD
  3. JHC: Masters and Commander DVD
  4. Econ: Spiderman I & II DVD's (my four-year old nephew was in tears because his dad got knocked out missing out on winning this prize, so it would have been brutal to pick it before)
  5. Sweetness: Massage book
  6. SIL: Earth photo book
  7. All-in: Born Free DVD
The home game would be ideal with a core group of folks. I think the reasonable, friendly stakes for the home game is the way to go as it allows us to chat it up, table talk, play a bit donkified (which is fairly easy for me), and have some real fun. I need to find the right folks, and I'm not going to go back to people I don't want there. Being a soon-to-be-41-year-old-old-fart, I'm no spring chicken (although I do have a 2001 England World Cup qualifying Beckham do thanks to my Virgin Atlantic hair stylist).

All of that to say a really great time for the weekend. Sweetness and I are about to pass out from being up so late (well, she's actually already slobbering down her chin). I need to book my final itinerary for my trip, which I'll do probably tonight. I'm debating whether to go to Bellagio for 24 hours on my way to LA, but I'll definitely hit Commerce before climbing on my 18-hour flight to Shanghai. It looks like Shanghai for nine days, then Singapore with a potential stop in Thailand.

Special thanks to my brother-in-law for driving two hours to spend 24 hours with me, and my brother and his great wife for coming in from Athens just to focus on me. Both you guys are more and more special to me, even though I'm sure it's a little creepy to have someone 10-12 years older than you hanging around. It couldn't be a better start to my Birthday Extravaganza.

POSTSCRIPT EDIT: And my brother won a three-handed $5 freeroll by somehow miraculously getting a run of incredible cards to knock Clemson and me out. I have totally blocked this particular tourney from my memory, but if I recall it was filled with major suckouts and just horrible, horrible play by Econ and he somehow took the cash! All kidding aside, he is one of the best three-handed SNG players I've ever seen!

06 January 2006

Why Do We Play Poker?

Working on my sign-up bonus on FullTilt, I had gotten up +$220 on a $5/10 table (which I donked down to $25 by the end of the night). I opened up a full $1 NLHE table. I was able to double up with two brutal suck-outs (QJo vs. AQ with a Q on the flop, caught J on river; KTo vs. QQ with a T on flop, caught K on river), so I had built my $45 buy-in up to $109. This is why we play the game. I'm on the button with 55, and UTG raises up to $3.50 to go. Middle position calls, and I call to bring the pot to $12. The blinds fold. Flop comes 5d5hJh. Raiser and caller check, and I check to see if my kicker will improve, although I do feel good about quads with a jack kicker. 8h comes on the turn, and the raiser bets the pot. The caller calls, and I call as well bringing the pot to $48. 9c hits on the river. The raiser goes all-in for $95.80 (I have $92.60 left). The caller thinks for a minute, then calls all-in for his last $34.15. I then type, "won't like this..." and call with my quads. Raiser caught his boat on the turn with 88, which made the caller's nut flush with AhTh. I told my wife this morning, she was beautiful coming down the aisle on our wedding day, and each of our three boys were incredible to see at birth. Putting that aside, is there anything more lovely than flopped quads? The only thing better is being last to act with two other players having hands.

That is a large part of NLHE cash games, waiting for monster hands. I'm normally on the losing end of it or make the donkey decisions that give my cash to someone else (see above before sucking out twice). Laying around for the monster flop, especially with low blinds, can be extremely profitable/dangerous. There is no more horror than to see a guy turn over 58o when you've gone all-in with your 55 and a board that reads 342 7 6. The physical shutter and twitching/faux-seizure that follows can keep one incapacitated for quite a while.

I like my comfort zone, playing solid tight/aggressive with an occasional weird hand, limit to limit my losses. I would guess this will always limit my potential to improve, but I've always regressed when I've tried to randomly get away from that (by loosening up, chasing more, etc.). Can you be successful simply by knowing your game then working on having the patience and discipline to stick to it? Is that boring, or is that what it's all about? I do like getting my VPIP closer to 20% rather than the 25-28% that I rode most of last year.

05 January 2006

Happy Birthday to Me!

It looks like I'll actually be able to pull off my first home game of any substance this Friday night. My birthday is the 10th, so it will be a bit of an early gift for me. I'll have my brother, brother-in-law, one-three neighbors, one-three neighborhood guys, and not sure who else. I've only had two birthday parties in my life. One was at age nine. I wore my green denim-ish leisure suit and had the music rocking with my crew. The second was last year for my fortieth with my parents and family, a surprise party that was really great. We'll see how the poker party works.

I had a donkish night Tuesday night, losing $375 on FullTilt $5/10. I played really stupidly after having a positive session earlier in the day. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I had been on a very disciplined run, playing much smarter, reducing my VPIP down to around 20% from 25%. The problem I'm having with FullTilt is just the scarcity of tables, so it becomes a bit of a challenge. I've got to work on it as the sign-up bonus is an absolute no-brainer if I can stay disciplined.

It looks like I'll be sneaking a quick stop in Vegas next week on my way East via west. I'll be in Shanghai for a week and Singapore for a week, so that will be a bit of a grind. I sent my passport yesterday to get my Chinese visa, so hopefully that all works out fine. I'm in the airport in Houston on my way home, so I'm off for now.

01 January 2006

Happy 2006!

I spent the dawning of the new year asleep on the couch next to our Gordon Setter, Angel. No marital distress: my wife and the boys went to the mountains north of G-Vegas to be with her parents while I worked yesterday and today. I did get in some poker yesterday on FullTilt, which is new for me. I'm working off my 100% sign-up bonus, which is an absolute no-brainer. Ended up down $100 for December online and up around $1,300 or so live.

We'll have our neighbors over for our annual New Year's dinner this afternoon. We don't ask them over every year, then ask them at the last minute. In the South, New Year's dinner is the following: BBQ ribs and/pulled pork, greens (either turnip or collard), black-eyed peas, corn bread, and rice. The greens are for financial fortune for the new year, and some folks put a dime in which is +EV for the person who finds it (but -EV if they don't find it until the next day...).

I have my proper jumper from London (sweater) over my Bellagio cool Nike collarless stretchy burgundy t-shirt. I got to watch some poker over the weekend: the Tournament of Champions, the Monte Carlo Millions, the 1993 and 1994 WSOP Main Event, the 2004 US Poker Open/Championships at the Taj. I've seen the last one before, but I had forgotten what a brutal, brutal beat D'Agostino caught vs. Hoyt Corkins. Hoyt is in the small blind with 78o or something and goes all-in when it's folded to him. Dags calls with some pocket pair like TT or JJ I think. This was a stupid steal for Hoyt as he could have done the same with less, and Dags had been a monster chip leader only to get these brutal flops when he was ahead all day, so he'd lost like half his chips to that point. Flop comes 77x, then a 7 on the turn for quads. He was absolutely stupified, counting out chips then finally just shoving his stacks at Hoyt, who was to his right. He then is short-stacked with KK and watches two players raise and re-raise in front of him with JJ and QQ. Flop comes QJx, and he's sent packing.

The Tournament of Champions was some amazing play. Hellmuth is an absolute diva, and I can't see how anyone can be in his corner. He's great to be sure, but he is risk-averse and would rather outplay than outwit. It makes a player like Hoyt particularly dangerous, who is the poster child of the Sklansky school of all-in-put-the-pressure-on-the-other-guy-poker. I also saw the Tony G/Surinder Sunar WPT Paris for the first time. Tony G is a couple of orders of magnitude worse than Matusow or Hellmuth. This guy is beyond unacceptable: I would assume he would have a high likelihood of taking a beating if he pulled his shenanigans (sic?) on Vegas dirt. Or the AC, where it would be cheaper to hire someone to conduct the beating, I assume.

Time to focus on my final report, get it printed, get a bit to eat, get the ribs, get the groceries and the flowers, and welcome my beautiful bride and the boys back home. For you slugs with a special someone out there: let this be the year you start bringing home flowers for no reason. It's +EV and a no-brainer to boot.
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