Thursday, April 28, 2005

Poker continues to be an enigma to me. A complete fucking mystery.

I am currently occupying the left side of the normal probability curve, losing consistently on 60-40 and 80-20 hands, leading me to believe that my success last year was more due to mathematical variation than skill. In other words, I’m still making the technically and mathematically correct plays, but the cards are laughing at the probabilities and smacking me around.

Part of the problem is that I play SnG’s, where the 20% of the time your AA or KK loses to JJ, TT, or 66, you’re out of the tournament. Twice last night, I got my money into the pot as a heavy favorite only to lose on the river. Two SnG buy-ins went bye-bye, along with my enthusiasm. I’m gonna switch to playing on the laptop to try and change my luck… and NO, I’m not superstitious.

After retiring from desktop poker play, I watched American Idol with wifey. I’m astounded that Scott is still around. After hearing about his checkered past , I can’t believe that any reasonable person would vote for him to represent American-anything. I’m convinced that fat, chauvinist wifebeaters are power-dialing his number every week to ensure that they have a representative in the show. By the way, does anyone else think that Scott is trying to channel Christopher Cross with his goatee and physique?

Oh, and Paula’s painkillers must have been wearing off by the end of the show, which is the only plausible explanation for her tears during Constantine’s dismissal. Listen Paula, no matter how sexy you think he is, Constantine is a mediocre vocalist, more showman than singer. He can still service you in the green room if you like, you washed-up hack. Having her as a judge of singing talent is like having Paris Hilton score your SATs.

The final three will likely be Carrie, Vonzell, and Bo, who have such wildly different target audiences that the final vote will be more a test of demographics than actual musical talent. They should just pick all three and let them release a triple-CD with Carrie singing country ballads (see Olivia Newton-John circa 1974), Vonzell re-releasing Donna Summer’s entire catalog, and Bo singing old CCR and Blood, Sweat, & Tears. Of course, this comes from a guy with Simon & Garfunkel, Steve Miller Band, Chicago, and Eagles CDs currently in his car...

Monday, April 18, 2005

The ignorance of most people about taxes astounds me. You hafta pay taxes… period. It’s a cost of living in the United States of freakin’-America. Now, you can pay Uncle Sam out of every paycheck… basically making installments on your yearly tax obligation, OR you can shaft Uncle Sam for as long as possible (three and a half months) and write him a check for the tax obligation in mid-April with no additional interest or penalties.

Now, some people brag about their tax refunds and how they snookered the Feds into sending them a big check. Listen, you ignorant boob, you just allowed the government to hold YOUR money for a year (and three and a half months) for nothing. To illustrate, let’s say you got a $1200 IRS refund. That means you OVERPAID your taxes by $100/month during 2004. If you had instead put that $100/month into a nice stable tax-free bond fund for a modest 3-4% return, you’d have an additional $30-40 in your pocket (counting the compounding during 2005 while you were filing your tax forms).

This may not sound like much, but it would be enough to buy an entry into the WPBT WSOP Satellite tournament at PokerStars.

Anyone who gets a tax refund is leaving money on the table… period. Granted, it may not be much, but when $33 can become $1500, and that $1500 can become $300,000, you shouldn’t ignore it.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Dumped two (small) SnG buy-ins last night while watching Ulong officially become the worst group of LOSERS in the history of Survivor, a dubious distinction. At some point, I want Stephenie to just go postal on the other team with the axe and chop them into tiny bits. Now that is one tough broad. The clowns at Koror are acting like they’re the greatest tribe ever… In reality, they simply got lucky and were matched up against the worst tribe ever: big difference.

Anyway, the two SnGs followed the predictable path. The first one ($8+.8, 20-seater) at Pacific was uneventful. I had a medium stack going into the final table, went card dead long enough to get short-stacked from the blinds, and ended up all-in with about a 4-1 advantage (JJ vs. Ax with bottom pair on a ten-high flop). Of course, an ace spiked on the turn to send me packing. No biggie. Like I said earlier this week, that kind of shit is gonna happen, especially in low limits.

So I figured that the Pacific gods were against me and fired up FTP. Got in one of the blockbuster $10+1 single table SnGs. Down to five with four of us basically tied for last and one table captain. Blinds at 50/100, I raise UTG to 250 with the Hiltons. I’m thrilled to get two callers hoping they both have Ax. Flop is Jxx and I fire a pot sized bet out there, again hoping someone hit the Jack. Sure enough, I’m pushed by the table captain with KJo. Again a 4-1 favorite. Again IGHN when the turn shows a Jack.

Sigh. Of course, losing back-to-back SnGs like that with those odds is about a 6% likelihood, meaning if I play two SnGs a day, I’ll bust out like that about twice a month… which sounds pretty close to reality. And even if I had won those hands, I would still have had some work to do to win (or even cash), but my EV would have been much higher than… um, ZERO.

I think many bloggers are blinded by the sheer quantity of bad beats and suckouts they see, ignoring the exponentially larger hand population. Some bloggers see almost 80 deals per table/hour while they’re four-tabling, meaning they’re seeing over 300 deals/hour. And remember, if the table has ten players, that’s 3000 hands/hour, which means pocket aces will appear ever four or five minutes on one of their tables. Which also means that they’ll be cracked three times an hour! It’s bound to skew perspectives….

Thursday, April 07, 2005

My four or five readers know that I’m basically a SnG player. I hesitate to call it “specialist” because, well, I’m not that good. My ventures into the B&M world have been horrific and laughably unsuccessful. Similarly, my ring game exploits can best be characterized as “uninspiring”. So, I languish in the world of cheap (< $20) SnGs, forever tied to the coin flips and suckouts that typically determine one’s success.

By their nature, SnGs have more bad beat stories, since just ONE bad beat can end your tournament. I’ve tried to minimize the “$&%$&^$%& fish sucked out on me again” stories simply because I realize that kind of shit is inevitable. Let’s say you’re all in three times with pocket Aces vs. pocket sixes. Odds are roughly 50-50 (51.2 to 48.8) that you’ll win all three. In other words, if you have pocket Aces three times in a row and go all-in preflop against someone else’s pocket pairs, you’re only about 50-50 to survive in the tournament. If you can’t stomach that mathematical reality you’re probably shouldn’t play in NL tournaments, SnG or MTT.

Y’know, I watched Erick Brenes get his money in TWICE last night as a 4-1 underdog, and win both times to take home a million bucks. I felt bad for Layne Flack (maybe it’s because his family was there), but didn’t feel bad at all for Matusow (can you say “Karma”?). Flack handled it well, even Matusow surprised me with his restraint. And they see about 20% of the hands per hour that online players see. For those that multi-table, you probably see more hands in a week than B&M players see in a year.

Face it, YOU’RE GONNA GET SUCKED OUT. Even with AA vs. the Hammer, you’re gonna LOSE one out of ten times! There are NO hands where you have a sure thing preflop!!! Think about that. EVERY hand has a chance to win. Literally. Any two cards… Considering how many thousand hands most of the poker bloggers play, you’re gonna see some craptacular suckouts. Of course, you’d rather read about it than experience it personally, but rest assured, your ticket is gonna get punched eventually.

OK, now that I'm coaching Little League, I'm gonna be channeling Peter King a lot this year. So.....on a more positive note, my son’s Little League team won their opener yesterday. Quick clue for those of you (present or future) Little League coaches: you can do all of the Tom Emanski fielding and throwing drills in the world, and it doesn’t help you if your kids don’t know WHERE to throw the ball. We played a team that runs all of the Emanski drills you see on the infamous Fred McGriff commercial. They practice four times a week, drilling and drilling on these things. Yesterday, they threw to the wrong base THREE times, leading to three runs for us. Conversely, we don’t run “drills” in practice, we run game situations. In practice, I’ll hit ground balls saying “Runner on 1st, what are you going to do?” or “Bases loaded, where’s the play?”. Rather than worrying about whether their feet are turned the right direction, or their shoulders were squared up a particular way, our kids were making the correct play with imperfect form.

The first run of the game? My son. Single to right, advanced on another single, hustled around on two fielders’ choice (the aforementioned throws to the wrong bases) to score our first run of the year.

The defensive plays of the game? My son. With a runner on 1st and us leading 4-2, batter crushes a fly ball to deep centerfield. Trevor raced back near the warning track, staggered a bit when the wind blew the ball back, and caught the ball, saving extra bases. Next play, blooper up the middle, second baseman raced back, and couldn’t reach it. Trevor charged the ball from center, caught it on one hop, and fired to second base, forcing the lead runner (who was caught in no man’s land).

But I’m not bragging.

Monday, April 04, 2005

I’m back from Cancun; tanned, rested, and entirely unmotivated.

Not many Spring Breakers left (read “drunken coeds”) by the time we got there, so it was relatively quiet on the beaches. Snorkeled, ate, body-surfed, drank, boogie-boarded, ate, sunned… basically had a great time with the wife and kids.

Some notable events while we were Cancun-ing:

- Terri Schiavo died. Rest in peace. At least you can. Apparently, all your fricking relatives and multiple groups want to prop you up as some sort of political symbol. I hope there’s a special corner of Hell for all those who try and use someone else’s death to further their own causes and beliefs.

- The Pope died. Rest in peace. A good man, by all accounts. I’m not Catholic (if there was any doubt), but I know a decent human being when I see one. Of course, now the College of Cardinals (Louisville?) is positioning to put either an Italian (to appease the traditionalists) or a South American (to appease the expansionists) into the papacy, proving that religion and politics are constant bedfellows.

- WPBT held another tournament. Props to all those who cashed. Somehow this didn’t make the headlines in the International edition of the Miami Herald.

I had my laptop with me during the trip. I even managed to squeeze in a SnG from Cancun while the rest of my family conked out from a snorkeling trip. I lost, of course, but enjoyed it as much as I’ve enjoyed any SnG. Being on a balcony overlooking the Caribbean tends to assuage the pain of dropping $5.50.

Played (badly) some .25/.50 NL on FullTilt, dropping $13 yesterday. Made that back by winning a $5+.5 SnG on Pacific. Someday I’ll learn to just stick to SnGs. I can’t even count how many times I’ve told myself NOT to play ring games. Oh well.

The SnG win had a hand almost identical to one I had in the WPBT tournament, where I tripled up by going all-in with pocket sixes and beating two Big Slicks. The stacks were roughly 5500-2000-1500 with me in last when that hand came up. It sprung me from last to first in one hand, and once I had the chip lead, I bullied my way to the victory. You know, I think that I could be a steady winner just by playing single-table $5-10 SnGs for the rest of my life. I’d be bored out of my mind, but at least I would be profitable.

Oh, and as the Donkeypuncher mentioned, we had our fantasy baseball draft just before I left. It’s always fun to draft with a bunch of guys who are all from the same region (in this case, Chicago) because they all overvalue the Cubs, and make some spectacularly stupid hometown draft choices (Aramis Ramirez in the second, Carlos Zambrano in the third, Kerry Wood in the fifth, Derrek Lee and Corey Patterson in the eighth).

Gonna spend most of my morning catching up on some blogs, catching up on some emails, catching up with some friends… oh, and doing work.