Monday, January 29, 2007

Remember how Raymond Babbit could count toothpicks?

The hardest adjustment for me switching from online to live poker has been figuring out a count for everyone's chip stacks.

Oh yeah and staying sober till Midnight. It's not even like I have a drinking problem. But when you eat dinner before you go to work suddenly a drink seems so good. A martini. A little wine. A beer. Maybe some champagne.

Next thing you know it's the end of January 2007.

But back to getting a count of your opponents chip stacks, this effects every decision at the table regardless of whether you're playing a tournament or ring game. Either way you need to know how much your opponent is playing with.

For example what does a 250 dollar raise mean? If you're playing 2/5 at the Wynn it might seem like a big raise. Until you see that your opponent has twenty five grand at the table. And he just made that bet into a guy with fifty grand. Now it seems like a small bet.

Playing online this crucial information is always available and perfectly accurate. Playing live I'm suddenly responsible for knowing how much each of my opponents has.

I can ask another player how much they have left if I'm in a hand with them. But oftentimes this information is part of determining if it's worth playing a hand against an opponent in the first place. And definitely how fast.

Now speaking of chip stacks- The orangish 1000 value chips used in the live tournaments at Caesars Palace look alot like Caesars orangish 100 value chips. One of them has an orange center. The other has orange on the outer rim. And it became hard for me to tell which were which in my own chip stack, let alone looking the across the table.

So of course there was a tournament hand, and this must happen there everyday, where someone bets 350 and the other guy wants to call so he throws in three orange chips along with his 50. But they were the 1000 chips instead of the 100 chips. And he quickly tried to fix it. But it was too late. The floor had to be called.

Was this a 350 call or a raise to 3500?

The best part is the guy who bet the initial 350 tells the other player that he doesn't feel he has to be held to a raise when he simply wanted to call. He then repeats this message to the floorman.

In case you're wondering why he shown such good sportsmanship, we'll later find out that he's saying this because he's on a flush draw. He wants to see the turn. I have a funny feeling that if he held top set his table manners wouldn't have been as good. And by funny feeling I mean no way in hell.

But this whole orange 1000 chips and orange 100 chips looking alike got me thinking.

Couldn't one use this to their advantage?

Like lets say I have pocket aces early in a tournament and someone raises the 25/50 blinds to 200 by throwing out two orange chips.

What I "should" do is silently "call" by tossing out two thousand dollar chips.

Then just act surprised when the dealer says I raised the pot.

The floorman will come over and tell me that I raised.

I can say something like "Okay now I know for next time."

Then I just sit back and wait for someone to reraise me. It's an easy pot to take away from me. Since it's quite clear that I only meant to call.

I'm not sure if this is good poker. Or bad etiquette?


Friday, January 26, 2007

Vegas Fact

I woke up this morning and decided I can be useful to people not living in Las Vegas by occasionally offering up something called my Vegas Fact.

The idea is that this can be information I provide to you good reader that is completely factual .

By factual I mean that I have witnessed it in person. I will admit that it's subjective. But I can also testify to it under oath.

Thus if I cannot provide first hand knowledge of the event, I will not offer it to you as a fact.

For example I'm not really sure I can prove the earth isn't flat. So I won't claim that as fact.

I've also heard many times that taxi drivers get paid money to bring people to strip clubs. So you can get them to drive you there for free. But again, I can't say this is a fact since I haven't done it myself.

Finally, I've heard that you can't bring your gun into the casino so most people leave them in their car under their seat. Again, I believe this to be true (unless the guy who told me the story was bluffing) but I won't list it as a fact since I didn't see it happen.

But enough examples of what aren't facts. Lets get to a fact!

Vegas Fact #1
In Las Vegas cash games when you go all in you don't have to turn over your cards to show everyone what you had.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What does the palm reader say?

Can I whine here?

Wasn't this supposed to be easy?

Do I really have to believe that "poker is a hard way to make an easy living"?

I started tonight by losing 80 BB.

Then I won it back. Plus an additional 30 BB.

And then I had my moment. The reason why I sit at the poker table. I found the opportunity to get all in preflop as a 3 to 1 favorite.

If I win I've earned a week's salary of poker money.

If I lose, it's poker.

Tonight I lost.

The beat itself doesn't matter. The edge I had is all I can focus on.

Maybe when I lose I can write it off to being entertainment right? Like instead of my wife and I going out in a Hummer Limo for three hours with a couple of hookers and an eight ball of coke, I got to go to the casino and watch a crazy Asian man make a move on me from late position. I paid 130 big blinds to have a front row seat for the whole thing.

Besides who the hell wants to bring 6 friends to go see Prince at the Rio when you can spend the same money watching a bored dealer turn over cards. For all I care they may as well be Tarot cards.

Why even use playing cards in the first place? Why not go a step further and just use palm readers? Like why not just read my hand and tell me my future and then point to different people at the table and tell me what I owe each of them?

"Give the guy from Australia 130 dollars. Give the old guy in the wheel chair 80 bucks.

Give the young Pakistani dude to your left 20 dollars.

Uh oh. I got good news and bad news. Which do you want to hear first?

The good news is you can take 300 from the Mexican guy on tilt across from you.

But now the bad news is you gotta give your entire stack to the Asian gentleman to your right."

Despite the money, losing this hand with pocket kings didn't hurt as much emotionally as losing a hand tonight where I raised the BB to 7x to get rid of a few limpers and got called by this one drunk guy.

Sure he shouldn't be operating dangerous machinery, but in his defense, his hand was suited. (Insert applause).

So for the joke of me playing this hand to fully work, we need me to flop top pair with my ace kicker. No problems there.

The universe, fate and destiny can make that happen. But to give our studio audience some extra fun, we're gonna also have two diamonds on the board. After all, he could have a flush draw.

I bet an amount that makes it's incorrect for him to chase a flush draw.

He calls.

And yes the third diamond appears on the turn. For all intents and purposes he's hit his flush.

He checks to me. I step on the brake and check too.

Here's the strange part. He checks the river.

I think something is fishy. It's one of those hands where I'm only gonna get called (or check raised) if I'm beat. I check behind him.

He shows me his diamonds. Jack high.

This hand sort of put me on tilt. I should have been proud of how I played it. I bet preflop and on the flop when I was ahead in the hand and then didn't put another chip in when I was behind.

It all makes perfect sense to me now sitting here typing this. But live in the moment the whole sequence made me feel angry. If I had gotten a couple of callers preflop he would have great odds to chase. But everyone else folded to me yet he still called. Logically this was good for me. But like I said, emotionally it pissed me off. He was looking to get lucky.

Now I'll also admit I feel even sillier for admitting these feelings. Obviously I want to be playing with a guy like this. But my feelings are my feelings. I hope I can read this in a few months and wonder how it ever bothered me.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Finally some fun

I went shopping for a car today.

The entire experience was worth every dollar.

The negotiation was alot of fun. I kept repeating my price and defending my sources.

This car salesman was nothing like the animals we see at poker tables.

This guy was sensitive.

He went hack on me when I told him I had no way of knowing what he really paid for the car and he questioned me for questioning him and questioned whether our relationship could ever regain its former level of trust.

To prove his point, emphasize his integrity and gain my trust this guy goes behind the counter to a computer and prints out a piece of paper that says a number.

He prints out a number on a piece of a paper. So it must be true.

As if this is any more credible than the numbers that I've been misquoting for the past 30 minutes. The best part is I've gotten my numbers confused with a different car I was looking at so I'm completely convinced that my price is correct. I believe my own story and I'm sticking to it.

He tells me that no one follows the Edmonds numbers. I say "I do."

Open with silver close with gold, right? I decide to close with the walkout. Sure it's hack. But it works. I thank him. Tell him he's been great. But I'm gonna go test drive a Toyota Camry at another dealer. It's my right as an American. It's the reason we're fighting in Iraq.

He warns me that my car might be sold for more money if I leave. I tell him if he can get more money for this car then I think he should sell it to that person. I fully support him on this issue.

I also tell him that if I can find a similar car for less money somewhere else I'm gonna buy it.

But if I can't then I'll be back. No hard feelings.

And we walked out.

My wife and I barely had our Starbucks in hand when the phone rang. They wanted us back. At my price.

It felt so good to be wanted. I can't believe people always give car guys such a bad rap.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Documenting the experience

Here's the deal. I'm a writer. So part of me wants to write interesting stuff on here.

But I'm also trying to be a full time poker player. And so at the moment it's way more important for me to make money and learn from my mistakes than it is for me to be an interesting writer.

So, for better or for worse, I'm planning on using this space to "document" the experience. To recall hands. To understand what I was thinking at various points of this journey.

I'm giving this whole disclaimer because I don't feel like I really had that interesting of a poker evening. Tonight was not necessarily the story or chapter I'd put in if I were writing a novel.

But it might be the kind of thing I blog about. Here goes.

I spent the past two nights watching the two night/4 hour premiere of 24. I sort of intoxicated myself to get the full terror experience and so I did not go to play poker on either evening. Good for me for not playing drunk. Bad for me for taking two days off when I need to be focusing on making rent. I mean paying my blind.

So after a day of running errands with my lovely and beautiful wife, I head down to the strip around 10pm not really sure what to expect on a Tuesday night. I figure I'll go to the Wynn or Bellagio but the route I take happens to pass the Hard Rock so I decide to check out the room there.

Guess what? Hard Rock has no poker room. I found this out after circling the premises by foot. It's a real shame too cause I had a nice parking space.

But seriously folks, How can the Hard Rock Casino not have a poker room? Shouldn't it be the hottest game in town?

Do you think they'll build one in time for the poker boom?

I get back in the car and try to go to the Wynn since I'm already on the East side of the Strip.

That's how much the crossing the Strip feels like crossing Times Square to me. I feel so wrong emotionally about entering that traffic. It's easier to just go to something on my side.

But of course since I don't really know where I'm going I drive past the backside of the Wynn and the first chance I get to make a left puts me on some road that turns into a highway and next thing I know I'm exiting somewhere near the Rio and the Palms.

If the Maloof brother's paid to have this street not exit anywhere near the Wynn and instead basically take you to the other side of town to their hotel then I applaud them. Cause it worked.

Inside the Palms they have two small poker rooms side by side. I walked by the first and wandered into the 2nd where there were only 4 tables, 3 in use. The sign on the wall said something about it being a high stakes poker room but when I asked what they were running he said all 3 tables were 2/5 no limit. 1000 max.

Who knew I was a high stakes player?

I can't even make fun of 2/5 being called high stakes at the Palms cause at least they have poker there. They could be like the Hard Rock.

Have you ever tried to check raise someone all in at the Hard Rock and you can't cause they don't have a poker room?

I buy in for 500. I get Ace King early and give away 60 bucks when nothing hits.

I get suited connectors. I flop two to the flush along with middle pair 8. I've gotten this situation each session so far in Vegas. Perhaps I need to get some sort of "automatic day shuffler" for my life because I haven't seen this exact situation as much back in the days when playing on the internet was not only popular, it was encouraged.

Of course I hit my flush on the river and of course the dude sighs and then bets on the river.

Not again. Can I fold this time?

There's a chance he doesn't have a flush because he bet the turn too. But damn these bad actors with their sighing and then betting.

His bet though is only 40. It's small enough that I'm happy to just call. And yes, he has the nut flush and I'm immediately down around 150.

The dude to my left was loose aggressive. Not so much preflop. But he was playing way too many hands and then firing out on the flop and turn hoping to win pots.

I take him on with king 9 suited. Not my finest moment. But against a dude playing every hand it's definitely playable.

Flop comes out with a king and two rags. I check to him. He bets 15.

This bet actually confused me a little because he had been betting larger amounts to steal the pots. Maybe this time he wants a call? Everyone folded it back around to me.

I decide to call. I made the decision that I'm playing king 9 against him because he's playing too many hands and that top pair is good enough against him. If he has a king with a better kicker I'm prepared to pay him off.

Turn another rag. He bets 40. I call instantly.

River misses too and this time he bets out 100. I thought he'd bet less. If he has two pair or King 10 or King Jack or King Queen then I'm gonna feel pretty dumb. But this 100 dollar bet can also definitely mean that he has nothing and that betting 100 is the only way he can win the pot.

I call.

He says the old "you got me" and then holds his cards out as to muck. But he doesn't actually drop them or turn them over.

Now I'm not sure if this was a dick move on my part but I don't show either. I want to see what cards he has even if I've won the hand. Again he mutters something to me about how he knows he's lost the hand and is trying to muck his cards. But he won't throw them in the muck. And I continue to not show mine either.

Dealer finally says lets see some cards. I say I called him. I'm also more than happy to have him muck so I can muck mine too, win the pot, and no one will ever know what either of us had.

He must have finally realized I meant business cause he turns over his cards and shows ace 8 off suit.

I show my king 9.

He started to complain about my calling him down with king 9. But that wasn't me being a calling station. That was me playing this guy as a specific opponent.

The guy to his left actually defended me by telling him "Dude you're playing every hand and raising since I came to the table."

This hand got me back above the 500 starting point. It also helped my mindset. It's amazing how much easier it is psychologically to play poker when you're ahead rather than behind.

In future sessions I still need to raise more. I'm limping or calling alot preflop with medium pairs trying to hit a set. But it would be good for me to be raising with a wider selection of hands to keep my opponents more off balance. It'll also help me get paid off when I actually do have a big pocket pair.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Starting Slow

I lost 150 at Caesars Palace Friday night when I pushed with two pair on the flop and got called and then outdrawn by a straight draw. But that sort of chaos is exactly why I was sitting at a 1/2 table. My game is rusty and I want to play low enough so that it doesn't hurt when I lose.

I've heard a few tales of people coming to Vegas and immediately going broke. I'm not talking addictive gamblers but rather speaking of the universe suddenly conspiring against you.

I'm paraphrasing here but I think they call this something like "the new house curse." It makes perfect sense. You buy a new house and suddenly with a big mortgage payment each month you find yourself getting outdrawn over and over. At the moment I'd much prefer these losses to be hundreds and not thousands.

Saturday night I played at Mandalay Bay. I ended up breaking even after losing a decent sized pot to a higher made flush right before I left at 4am. To my credit at least I didn't reraise on the river. I might normally have raised in that spot but I got a real funny feeling after my opponent sighed out loud when the flush hit. His over the top BS overreaction followed by him betting out 50 bucks reminded me way too much of some of the bad acting classes I've witnessed in North Hollywood, California.

The real shark move here would have been for me to fold my ten high flush but at this point it was way worth the 50 additional dollars to see that I was right.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

How did I get here?

"You may find yourself in another part of the world. And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile. And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?" Talking Heads

We were walking through the MGM and that Talking Heads song was playing and I've heard the lines about the beautiful house and the beautiful wife a hundred times before but it definitely hit me differently this time.

How did I get here?

I'd say that probably around two or three times a day it'll hit me that we're actually living in Las Vegas. It's also fair to say my wife and I are in complete shock from moving out here. The house we've rented is over ten times the square footage as was our NYC apartment. Plus our stuff hasn't arrived yet from back East so lets just say the house seems really big.

We're in the suburbs around 15 minutes away from the strip and when we go shopping at Whole Foods or Target or Petco or Home Depot or wherever it is that Americans shop these days, we really could be anywhere.

I guess the big difference between suburban Las Vegas and say Thousand Oaks, California is that there are casinos everywhere. Everywhere. Including the suburbs.

And if you don't want to hit a casino you can simply play video poker 24 hours a day basically anywhere that you shop.

This is what it looks like at 2am in Vons supermarket.

Hmmm. What's that over the shoulder of my checkout dude?

A closer look.

I peak inside of course some guy is playing.

When I pull out of our subdivision I can go to a casino whether I turn left or right.

I timed our ride home from the one to the left last night and it took us 4 minutes to get home in the car.

Clearly we're living the good life. While the rest of you break the law playing on the internet.

Meanwhile now that I've figured out how to insert links and add photos to this blog, this whole Vegas Year thing is gonna be out of control.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Life is like paying the blinds at a poker table

Here is my "Life is like paying the blinds at a poker table" analogy.

Lets say that each calendar month of time = one orbit at a poker table.

Lets say that my bank account = my chip stack.

Lets say that my monthly nut to live in Vegas = paying one big blind.

So put this all together and it suddenly occurs to me that my new monthly nut is kind of like paying the big blind.

Every month it costs me X dollars to live here in Vegas.

Every month I need to make X dollars at the table to break even.

If I can make greater than X then my chip stack (aka my bank account) increases.

If I make less than X then my chip stack decreases.

Every month is simply an orbit at the table.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Finding a home

The best part about looking for a house in Vegas is that whenever someone asks me what I do for a living and I say "I play poker" no one even blinks.

Our only obstacle is that my SAT math score is much higher than my credit rating but as some great writer once said: "cash conquers all."