Monday, February 28, 2005

From the nobody-asked-me file:

How many remember when Hilary Swank was “The Next Karate Kid” and why didn’t she thank Mr. Miyagi for teaching her to fight?

Ummm, who else think Sean Penn takes himself (and Jude Law) a little too seriously?

New rule, no matter how many worked on the movie, only one acceptance speech per category.

Was Martin Scorsese on his way to an audition for the Harry Caray story?

Was Johnny Depp deliberately wearing Gene Wilder’s old Willy Wonka outfit to promote “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”?

Why was Whoopi Goldberg the only other ex-host on the Johnny Carson retrospective? Were Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, and David Letterman all busy?

Even my wife was commenting on how gorgeous Halle Berry looked.

Melanie Griffith looks like a bad episode of Nip/Tuck that involves a malpractice lawsuit.

Props to Chris Rock, who kept the straitjacket on and basically did an SNL-level stand-up routine without resorting to any verbal sledgehammering. Congrats, you basically turned yourself into Arsenio.

Another boring night.

No hoopla. No fanfare. No recognition.

Over one year blogging about nothing in particular. Absolutely no value added to the poker world at large, but some cathartic ramblings to aid my peace of mind.

You know how the NFL glorifies the chain of coaches that followed Bill Walsh using the misnamed West Coast Offense, as in Walsh begat Holmgren, Shanahan, Sam Wyche, Denny Green, George Seifert, et al, and extending it to add third generation coaches like Jeff Fisher, Jim Mora Jr., Jon Gruden, etc. [note: Walsh was actually a disciple of Paul Brown who preferred to hand off to Jim Brown, go figure. Most of Walsh’s playbook was actually stolen from Sid Gillman.]

Well, my chain of poker bloggers includes…. Um, well… Donkeypuncher. And he’s actually the one who encouraged me to start playing online poker to begin with. That’s my blogging legacy. I’m so proud.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Here’s a little etiquette puzzler for all you other cubicle-farm groundhogs out there…

It’s regarding farts. We’ve all done it. We all do it. But in the doorless cubicle environment of the modern business, we can’t simply shut the door and let the air conditioning system take care of it. Nor can we assume that four-foot-high cloth walls will somehow contain the gastrointestinal mushroom cloud we just released.

Do we:
1. Run to the bathroom every time we feel that bubbling sensation in our intestines?
2. Squeeze it out as discreetly as possible and hope nobody decides to visit your cubicle for the next half hour?
3. Walk through the office, puffing out little wisps of odor, like some sort of mobile Glade Plug-in?
4. Go down to the warehouse or the smoker’s area and fire it out where the smell will be masked?
5. Just rip one as loud as possible, serving notice that the beast has been unleashed and it’s everyone else’s responsibility to avoid contact?
6. Hold it until you’re reasonably sure you won’t be disturbed, like in your car?

Each option has its advantages. I probably use #2 more than any other. I’m too lazy to actually get up from my desk for something as insignificant as a fart. Option #1 works only if your bathroom is reasonably isolated and/or soundproof, or else you might as well just go for #5. Seriously, how many of you have heard massive eruptions (whether gaseous or semi-solid) from a bathroom, and hung around watching the door to see the culprit? Uh-huh, thought so. Option #3 takes a lot of sphincter control, probably more than I have. I’ve tried this in my house, and damned if I don’t squeak like a slowly leaking balloon. Option #4 is effective, but you return to your desk smelling like an ashtray, not much better. Option #6 leads to health risks including spontaneous combustion, inadvertent release (embarrassing), and a stinky car.

This is running through my mind because I just went to another guy’s cubicle to discuss some training program I’m designing for his product group. His office smelled like Coalinga, which probably doesn’t mean much to most of you. If you’re from California, you know Coalinga is the stretch of Highway 5 that has about a zillion cows and has a permanent haze of rectal methane. No window can block the fumes. My eyes were watering as I stood there. I was at a total loss for what to say or do.

My choices were:
1. Say “Jeezus H. Christ, who the hell shit in here?!”
2. Ignore it, breathe through my mouth
3. Ask him up front if he farted, and curse him for not warning me
4. Leave and conduct the meeting on the phone
5. Fart out loud and dare him to call me on it


Thursday, February 24, 2005

Three straight days. Three straight SnGs. Three straight cashes. A first, a second, and a third. Lessee… that’s $100 cash for $33 invested. Hmmm…. Not bad.

Now, I certainly don’t have the resources (financial or technological) for a Nerd-like SnG explosion, but I seem to be back to the type of play that made me a consistent winner last year. Looking back over my hand histories, I was most successful when I played ONE SnG per night and focused all my attention on that game, no matter the stakes. Longer sessions at the computer inevitably led to lower EV due to concentration lapses and family distractions.

Of course, now that Party has roughly eight billion users, it might just be that most of the better players have moved up to the $30/50 SnG levels, leaving only the clueless and the poor in the $10/20 levels where I tend to troll. But money is money, and if I take $50 from RaymerIsMyHero or Greg Raymer himself, the cash still buys the same stuff.

Oh, I’ve also found some really choice ground for those of you that want to do some barrel fishing. Pacific Poker now has low buy-in NL tables ($50/25/10). I had some spare time before dinner last night, but not enough for a SnG, so I popped into one of these H Salt Specials (Fish with chips). I sat down with $10 and waited for the onerous $.05/10 blinds to come around. At least seven limpers came into every hand with NO preflop raising. Lots of minimum bets and minimum raises on the turn and river. It was almost like watching my son play.

The first hand I play is KT in late position with six limpers. Flop is Kxx. Remember, the BB is TEN-FREAKIN-CENTS! Anyway, I float a $.25 bet after it’s checked around. I get two callers. Blank on the turn, everyone checks to me again, and I fire a whopping $1 bet. Everyone folds. I type into chat “Ace high is good?”. Suddenly the table chat comes to life, blinds begin to get raised, bets climb above $1, but the cold-calling continues. So, when I get KK on the button and raise it to $.50, I get five callers. Qxx flop, checked to me, and I bet $2. Two callers now see the bricked turn. I push all-in and get one caller. The board paired one of the undercards on the river, momentarily worrying me, but the $20+ pot (the largest pot since I sat down) gets pushed my way. After just three circuits, I’m up $25 (that’s 250 BB for those of you keeping track) and ready for dinner.

My guess is that many of these people are low-limit players who are testing the NL waters at the minimum buy-ins. Most of them seem to have no concept of pot odds or betting in a NL game. A shrewd player could comb these tables to find a nice loose passive group and hit for a quick score (3x buy-in) to pay for a SnG or a tournament.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Back in the saddle again… I won my first SnG in almost a month last night. No fancy plays, no super-slick slowplays, no check-raises on the turn, just good old-fashioned tight-aggressive play. Sometimes we get so caught up in watching Negreanu or Hansen making slick plays and raising from the button with 76s, we forget that solid, basic play is +EV against the vast majority of the online poker playing universe.

Out of 81 hands, I showed down SIX and was 5-1 on those hands. The only hand I lost was when I called an all-in as the chip leader with four players left with the incredibly powerful K3s. Chips were 4000 for me, and around 1200-1400 for the other three. With blinds at 200/400, the worst player left went all-in from SB and I called from BB. I had a couple of thoughts regarding this play:

1. He had gone all-in multiple times before with total garbage like T7s and 87s and had survived, so I wasn’t actually expecting more than one face card. Turns out he had AJo.
2. I had just doubled up through him, deposing him from the chip lead (built up by his preflop all-ins getting lucky flops). I suspected a blind steal and possible tilt. And get this, he ended up all-in 19 times!?!?! Gee, when I see someone who is all in over 20% of the time, I’m guessing that his hand selection might be a little loose.
3. I knew he was, um, NOT a strong player, meaning that I wanted to take his chips before the other guys could. As it was, the chips I handed him helped him make it to the final two with a 5800-2200 chip lead over me after he snapped off the other two players [with J7 vs 33, and J2 vs Q6]

This brings up an interesting and frequently frustrating fact about low level SnGs. There are always “all-in cowboys” that luuuuuuvvvv to push all-in. Of course, in a normal universe, they will lose to SOMEONE ELSE eight out of nine times, meaning that someone else will have an early 2-1 chip lead over everyone almost 90% of the time. Case in point: by hand 10, two players had busted out, meaning two guys had significant chip leads. Of course, on hand 11, I doubled up through one of the leaders with KK when he called my all-in turn bet on a Jack-high board with Ax. I busted the same guy four hands later (chip lead to out in five hands…. Not good) when he pushed on the turn with AQo against my TT and another Jack-high board.

In looking over the hand history, I’m stunned by my almost total lack of “plays”. To borrow a bridge term, it was almost double-dummy. I raised with the best hand or draw, laid down the worst, called with good pot odds, but NONE of it was sleight of hand. OK, maybe one hand during the head-to-head, but that’s it. With blinds at 250/500, I bet an OESD with 75o and J64 flop. He raised me and I called (implied odds = win, so it was an easy call). When the turn came up another Jack, I represented the trips with a big bet, and he laid down his hand (likely Ax, based on his play). That hand gave me a 4-1 chip lead and I never looked back.

Lesson learned: Good play is good enough, at least at Party. All that fancy shit needs to wait until the blogger tournaments, when people are actually paying attention.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Quick question: Am I the only poker blogger in the Bay Area?

Just seems that there are clusters of poker bloggers out there, and none of them are in the Bay Area... Or at least none discuss it.

:::Note: I wrote this post last night at an indeterminate time, somewhere over the Rockies...

OK, here I am, opening up another Word file at 36000 feet, blogging about nothing in particular, except maybe 4.5 hours of excruciating poker play at Trump Casino on Tuesday, followed by about three hours of sleep, and eight hours of delivering training…

“Even monkeys learn from their mistakes” – Unknown, but probably a poker blogger

First the poker. Thanks to the Donkeypuncher for picking me up at Union Station after an abortive trip via Chicago’s shittiest taxi driver and the Metra rail line. I had originally planned to meet DP at Union Station at 730pm after riding Chicago’s suburban rail line (Metra) from Schaumburg to downtown Chicago, but my taxi driver decided to follow all of the speed limits and stop lights, and got me to the train station five minutes too late for the 630pm train, so I ended up hiding from the freezing cold in a dingy trailer masquerading as a train station for almost an hour waiting for the next train. Once I hooked up with Jeff, we set off for Trump Casino, which Jeff said was “fifteen minutes away”. Apparently, Chicago time is much like dog time, and we ended up pulling into the casino parking lot at around 915pm.

Some quick background. I had woken up on Tuesday at 400am to catch a 600am Oakland to Chicago flight, set up computers for half of a region, installing multiple softwares and debugging some of the most gawdawful spam blockers and browser strait jackets I’ve ever seen until 600pm central time, so I’m already pretty much exhausted when we troop into the card room. Jeff had the foresight to call ahead, so when we arrived, we were names #2 and #3 on the $3/6 list. All they had was full kill tables, which kinda worried me since I hadn’t ever played a kill game. With three tables running, we figured we wouldn’t have long to wait. Sure enough, Jeff got seated after about fifteen minutes, and I was seated at a different table about five minutes after.

My table was filled with the usual mix of young hotshots, overweight slobs, and Asians as I settled into the 4s with my rack of whites. I waited until I was BB before posting to get a feel for the table. I soon figured out that the 6-9 seats were playing just about every hand, with the 9s winning most of the pots through aggression and hitting draws. Most of my side of the table was tight, and spent most of their time complaining about the suckouts administered by the other side. I sit and fold through almost three full orbits without playing a hand when I pick up suited Slick in MP on a kill hand. I raise the $6 kill to $12 and get FOUR callers. Flop is AJ6 with two hearts. The hearts bother me, but I bet anyway when it’s checked to me. Two callers see the bricked turn with me. No straight possibilities, but now the board is two-suited, so I bet out $12. The big stack in 9s calls me down through the non-suited river and I take down a pretty healthy pot to break my cherry in Indiana. Next hand, I pick up KT and call the BB. Flop is a nifty KTx. I bet after two checks and again pull along four callers. I can’t remember the turn, but it didn’t worry me. When the big stack bet, I put him on a draw and raised him up. Again, he called me down through the river and mucked when I showed my top two pair.

Now, I’m on the kill UTG and pick up A7. I check with SIX callers. The flop is AKx and I bet after two checks (remember, my side of the table was very tight-passive). Two callers from the other side, as the players to my right fold meekly. As the dealer flips the turn, I bet $12 almost before it hits the table. Again, I get called down passively to a guy who flips up Kx (!) as I pull my third pot in a row.

OK, now I’m thinking that I’m Gus fucking Hansen, and I’m gonna steamroll this table. I pick up A3 sooted and almost get a full community kill pot. Flop is the delirious A43. I check quickly and one of the big stacks bets. I put him on an Ace and immediately check-raise, pushing out all but the two big stacks on the other side. The turn is a Q and I’m liking my hand… a lot. I bet the $12 and only get one caller. The river is a five and I immediately get a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. I bet out anyway and he raises me quickly. I KNOW he has a deuce, and it pisses me off no end that he had no mathematical reason to call the turn bet. Sure enough, I call and he flips Q2. I’m flabbergasted that he would 1. Cold call a kill pot with Q2, 2. Call a check-raise after the flop with an ace on board and a butt-shot draw at best, and 3. Call the turn with basically a 6-outer (Q for trips or the 5 for the straight) – ok, this one isn’t so bad since he may have had close to 7-1 pot odds for the call. But it still pissed me off.

And it started a spiraling downward course for me. I hesitate to call it “tilting” since I really didn’t change my play, but every decent hand after that became an exercise in suckouts and bad luck. As I mentioned on Donkeypuncher’s site, I had the Hilton sisters the same time that AA, KK, and JJ were also dealt. The river J ended up taking the bulk of a $200+ pot that was ultimately split three ways due to multiple all-ins. My flopped straight later lost to a four-club board. My trip tens with an ace kicker were counterfeited when the board made a second pair on the river, splitting a pot when I had AT vs T8. I had multiple opportunities to leave the table and join Jeff, but I stubbornly stayed at the fishy table, eager to catch them with my bare hands, forgetting that schools of fish are tough to beat. Another painful hand was when I folded AK on a QT8x board after THREE raises on the turn only to see the J fall on the river. This of course set off a betting war with two guys showing down KK and KQ for the K-high straight while my broadway snoozed at the bottom of the muck. I figure these three or four hands cost me a combined $300 in pots with the AK being the only one when I might have played differently had I used implied odds rather than pot odds.

Just like at Lucky Chances [see here], I dropped my entire buy-in. Just like at Lucky Chances, I kept playing even when I should’ve left due to the table dynamic. Just like at Lucky Chances, I didn’t adjust my play when the fish began schooling.

That’s it. I’m through with limit ring games at B&M. My strength is NL tournament play, specifically $10-30 buy-ins, specifically hold’em, specifically online with decent players, specifically with a short stack. Pretty narrow specialty.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I’m on my way from Atlanta to New York right now, blogging from 31,000 feet. I’m still debating whether to join the blogger tournament tomorrow by installing PokerStars long enough to make a quick deposit from my Neteller funds, play the tournament, and immediately UN-install the program to avoid ruffling any corporate IT feathers. It probably isn’t worth the effort, but the new point system intrigues me. I can’t help but feel that I would’ve scored pretty well (a second place and a top-twenty finish) in whatever scoring system is used.

The entire travel experience sucks. Delta has this completely ridiculous pay-for-shitty-food-like-you’re-still-in-the-airport food policy, charging outrageous amounts of money for such gourmet fare as potato chips and turkey sandwiches. That was on a SFO-ATL cross-country flight! This frickin’ flight nets me a couple of bags of shitty pretzels and a free beverage, as long as it’s Coke. Headsets are $2 to watch old reruns of some shows we didn’t watch the first time they were on TV, and have probably been worn by lepers and psoriasis sufferers.

Now, some fucktard wearing NYG gear and a Cincinnati Reds hat and sweatpants is clogging the aisle talking to his friend. He was wandering around earlier while we were still ascending, leading the flight attendant to loudly announce that the “Fasten seatbelt sign is still lit. The captain INSISTS that everyone remain seated with their seatbelts fastened.” Of course, this dickwad ignored her and kept talking to his friend with his fleece covered lard-ass right in my face. He looks rather pugnacious and I’m sure he’s waiting for someone to try and press the issue just so he can yell back in all his asshole-ish glory. God, I hate travel. I’m hoping for some turbulence so FatAss can tumble down the aisle like Butthead in the movie. That would almost make this trip worthwhile.

Pokerwise, I’m going to play the $2/$4 Bad Beat tables whenever the jackpot exceeds $300K now. I played recently when the jackpot was in the $700K range, and the number of BAD players was astounding. I cleared 20BB in less than an hour, just by playing solid, by-the-book poker. Raise preflop if you have top ten material, bet on the flop with the nut draws, slowplay the turn with a powerhouse, raise with a scare board, all pretty fundamental stuff. All of it worked. I’m not even necessarily playing for the jackpot, I’m playing because the waters are teeming with empty headed jackpot chasers, trying for their piece of the rainbow. It’s lucrative just to be playing right then, the jackpot would just be gravy…