Friday, September 28, 2007


I'm in Taos, New Mexico so no poker for me this weekend.

I played twice before I left town and one thing I've noticed lately is it's becoming more and more common for me to only win one hand per hour.

The challenge becomes making a profit during these dry spells.

It's that fine line between showing patience and yet getting involved enough to give myself a chance to make money.

And for all I know maybe it's not a dry spell.

Maybe this is completely normal.

Maybe all those times I've won multiple hands in an hour I'm just getting real lucky.

I assume I should win around 3 hands an hour. (When I speak of winning multiple hands I'm talking of actually showing down and winning. Obviously I can win alot more hands if I bet and others fold.)

Playing live I probably average 30 hands an hour. If there are 10 players at the table then the math says I should be winning 3 of those hands. But of course there is no should in poker.

In my last session I played for 4 hours and only won 4 total hands at showdown.

My starting hands?

4,7 suited. 6,9 off. Queen, 9 off. And 6,4 off.

When I showed down the 4,7 suited I got a nice lecture from a tight player who explained to me how poorly I played.

It was really quite entertaining. I had flopped trips and then rivered a flush.

I'm sure he was never ahead at any point once the flop came. In fact I think the flush coming on the river hurt my action. I would have bet more with my trips. I was scared he would fold to my flush bet. Yet he still called a pot sized bet on the end.

I was so tempted to ask him what hand he could have beat. But I was well behaved and kept my mouth shut.

Meanwhile the more he criticized me, the more he showed his ignorance.

And the rest of the table saw it too. From then on out, anytime he entered a pot everyone was excited to jump in and play with him.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Table Full Of Drooling Locals

It was just another Tuesday night at the Bellagio.

As I waited to sit down at 2/5 I noticed that Bobby's Room was open.

Bobby's Room is a glass enclosed area in the Bellagio poker room named for Bobby Baldwin. Baldwin is the 1978 WSOP Main Event champion who then got involved behind the scenes with jobs as President of the Bellagio and CEO of the Mirage Casino.

Bobby's Room has been closed every time I've visited the Bellagio this month but last night the door to the room was finally open. Seated inside at one of the tables were Jennifer Harmon, Eli Elezra, Doyle Brunson and Ming Ly. Just the 4 of them playing together.

Makes you wonder who the supplier is in that game...

As for me, I sat down around 930 PM and did my usual thing not winning any hands for the first hour. I was dry for at least the first 4 orbits. What these slow starts have reinforced for me is to not fall behind early. No need to go into a deficit trying to make something happen. I will eventually win a big pot. The key is for that big pot to be profit. And not me catching up on losses.

Around two hours into the session I misplayed one hand pretty poorly. I had small suited connectors in an unraised pot. I flopped a pair and an open ended straight draw. I ended up calling 3 bets in a row. Obviously the first 2 times I had my straight draw as well. But even when I missed on the river I was still convinced I could be ahead. I thought my opponent was on a drawing hand. So when he over bet $100 at the end it was a damn close decision.

If I called I'd basically only be able to beat a bluff. A busted draw. But like I said, that's what I thought he had. I called and ended up paying him off on a flopped straight.

It felt like a bad play.

On the flip side, I had a read and I trusted it. That's what I do.

I make plenty of crazy calls that do work. I can't beat myself up when I'm wrong.

Meanwhile I couldn't make much of anything happen on the night.

At 1:30 AM after 4 hours of play I was down $275.

At this point our table was 6 handed and I raised it to 15 on the button with king 8 suited.

Both blinds called.

Flop was king, king, rag. They both check.

I made the continuation bet here with my trips.

Why? Because the blinds were both experienced players. If I check here it looks too much like I'm slow playing my trip kings. Lets put out a bet that makes it look like I don't have a king and see what they do.

So I bet 20. They both call.

Turn is a blank. They check to me again and this time I bet 35.

One folds. One calls.

River is another blank and this time the blind fires out 50. I like this bet because it removes the possibility of my betting and getting check raised.

Hey for all I know he has a king with a better kicker. After all he did call my first two bets fearlessly. And now this bet looks like he's leading out for value.

I don't trust my hand or have any kind of read that inspires me to raise him here. But I'm definitely more than happy to call the 50.

He immediately turns over his pocket aces as if obviously he has the best hand.

I show king 8 and feel real proud when he says to no one in particular "There's no way I put him on a king there because he led out on the flop."

He also complained that I raised preflop with king 8 suited.

I guess he could have reraised me preflop with his aces and gotten rid of me.

I was only down 137 dollars when the table broke at 1:50 AM. And of course I'm thinking to myself "Damn....if I didn't overplay that one suited connector hand I'd be up right now."

At my new table I pick up ace 10 suited in the blinds in an unraised pot.

Flop is Ace, 5,6. It gets checked around.

Turn is another ace. I bet 20 and get raised to 60.

When the reraise comes here it usually means I am beat. I have the chance to make the great laydown. Let go of my trips. There are so many ways I am beat. Ace jack. Ace queen. Ace king. Ace 5. Ace 6. Just to name five.

But two things sway me to stick around.

1- He didn't raise preflop so maybe he doesn't have a bigger ace.

2- He only has another 140 dollars.

This second part feels like bad poker. Because if he has $500 in front of him I fold. But knowing that my worse case scenario was losing an additional 180 bucks convinces me to make the bad call.

I call and he turns over pocket 6's. He has a set.

Of course he does. He was trying to tell me with his reraise but I didn't listen.

A few hands later I lose with pocket jacks, and poof, just like that I'm down 407.

My table breaks again and this time I move to a wild table where everyone calls any size raise preflop. My first hand there I watch a guy raise it to 50 in early position and get 4 callers.

On another hand there was a straddle to 10, a few callers and then the big blind makes it 100!
I didn't believe him and was so tempted to call (or reraise with my queen 10 suited). There were 2 callers in front of me but still I folded for the 100 bucks. I only had around 300 on the table and I didn't want to call for 1/3rd of my stack.

Of course the flop came queen high with two clubs.

At this table there was one player in particular who was my target. He had a couple grand in front of him so obviously he'd been running well. However it quickly became clear that he'd call down with any piece of the flop.

I eventually got into two hands with him. Both times I had ace queen. Both times I flopped an ace. And both times he called down all 3 bets! He personally put me up on the night. He took a losing session for me and turned it into profit.

I was completely exhausted and finally left the Bellagio around 4 AM. I probably cost myself additional money by leaving because that one bad player was still sitting there.

Surrounded by a table full of drooling locals.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Way of The Safe and The Weak

All day Thursday I kept intending to play poker but I guess I'm a pretty slow mover because I didn't make it down to the strip till 11:30 PM.

When I showed up at the Bellagio there were 13 people waiting to play 2/5.

I was #14. Just like Anthony Mason.

As I waited to get my seat I stood by the rail near a 5/10 no limit game. I couldn't help but notice that many of the players at 5/10 were the exact same players I see at 2/5 . Players that I actually like to sit with.

This begs the question: When is it time to move up in levels?

I've been having a good run at 2/5. I'm not sure when it happened but the game feels like 1/2 to me. Oh wait I remember. It's when I got that leaked fixed.

I want to jump up to 5/10. I'm definitely curious. Especially if those same players are there.

I presently buy in for 500 at 2/5 so it's not that big of a deal to take 1000 over to 5/10 and see what happens. That first buy in seems like a great investment. Cause if I start winning at 5/10 hopefully I can stay there and earn more. The risk is to avoid any kind of initial bad run. Because my money would disappear twice as fast.

When I first moved here 9 months ago I had a larger bankroll but not enough live playing experience to play 5/10 no limit. And the way life works, now that I'm more concerned about money, I'm finally ready to try 5/10.

While I was waiting I watched a guy play a pot for 2000 dollars at 5/10 raising the whole way with queen jack off. Makes me hungry.

I was seated at a poker table at 12:30 AM.

The night before I only won 3 hands in 4 hours.

Tonight I won 3 hands my first freaking orbit.

Some nights hours go by without seeing a playable hand.

Check out these first 10 hands:

1- Pocket Aces
2- Pocket Jacks
3- 4,5 suited
4- Pocket 10's
5- 10, Jack suited
6- Ace King suited
7- King jack suited
8- Pocket 2's
9- King queen suited
10-Pocket 7's.

It was crazy to see that. I've played alot of poker these past 4 years. I've seen alot of hands. But not ten hands in a row like that. Let alone the first ten hands of the night.

From a psychological standpoint it was fun to assume the identity of a guy who played too many hands. But it didn't necessarily pay off. The hard thing about a game called poker is that getting these cards didn't mean I was going to win alot of money. In fact when the dust cleared on these first ten hands I was up exactly 6 dollars.

I guess I could have been up more than 6 dollars. Some might say I should have been up more than 6 dollars. But I got myself involved in a straddled hand. I flopped top pair with my king jack suited. A guy and his middle pair kept betting. And I kept calling. I really didn't think he had me. And I was right. Initially. But then he hit trips and took a $250 pot.

When this happens it's hard not to think: "Damn. I should have 756 in front of me. Not 506."

An hour passed and I took a bathroom break at 1:50 AM.

At that moment I was at 440. Down 60 bucks.

I was playing more hands than usual because the table was way too tight.

At 2 AM I was at 400, down 100.

I limp with 5, 7 suited under the gun. This table had been letting people get away with limping. The only thing standing in my way was an aggressive player who had just sat down and raised his first 3 hands. This time he popped it up to 30 bucks.

I called. I figure he probably puts me on a hand better than 5,7. Lets put on our disguise and see what happens.

Flop is 9,10, jack rainbow. And he checks.

Hmmmm. He led out with flop bets on his previous hands.

Okay. I check too.

Turn is an 8. I've made the dummy end of the straight.

He checks. I check too.

I want more information. I'm not scared of getting outdrawn here. I don't mind giving up this pot. I was playing 5,7 suited to win a huge pot. Not to take a chance on the dummy end of the straight. I don't want to bet the turn and get reraised.

I'm also giving him a chance to bluff the river if he doesn't have a queen. I won't call an all in here but I'd certainly call a pot sized bet from this guy.

River is a blank and he checks one more time. Now I bet 45. He thinks for a minute. If he raises me here then I might fold. I really think he's going to fold but he eventually calls the 45.

I show my 7 for the straight. He mucks.

The best part about this hand was anyone paying attention could see that I made a 30 dollar call preflop with 5,7.

Usually in life advertising costs money but in this case it was nice to advertise and make money.

A few hands later this same aggressive player raises to 30 on the button. I call with pocket 4's in the big blind. A guy who had limped in the cut off seat calls the 30 too.

Flop is 4, 5, queen. The 4 and 5 are diamonds.

I check my set. Cut off seat bets 30. Wild man raises to 100.

What do I do?

Last night I chose to smooth call in a similar spot with 2 pair. When I play passively I'm giving my opponents a chance to pass me but there are benefits as well. I can get away from my hand if a flush comes. And if no scary cards come I can also make way more later in the hand by having earlier hidden my strength.

In this spot I actually have even more of a safety net to slow play my set. If someone hits their flush or a straight draw I can still beat them if the board pairs. With two pair I'd only have 4 outs. But with my set of 4's I'd still have 10 outs going into the river if the board brings a flush on the turn.

I think I could stomach giving a flush draw a chance. Or a straight draw a chance. But something about the 4,5 being both straight and flush draws makes me decide to push my chips in here. These guys may outdraw me but I ain't gonna give them a cheap price to do it.

The other issue here was having two opponents. Against one opponent I might just mini raise to 200 to keep them in the hand. Take my chances. Build a pot.

But against two opponents if I make a smaller raise all I might be doing is giving someone chasing their draw some real juicy pot odds.

So I push all in. They both fold. I take down a 220 pot. And wonder why I didn't make more.

Yet if I just call or mini raise on the flop and they come along for the ride and then suck out on me, I'm sitting here writing to you about how I didn't force them to pay to come along for the ride.

So yes the raise is correct. But maybe a raise to 300 is better. Not all in. But still charge them to come along.

When the cut off guy folded here he said he had ace queen. If that was true then I do wish I bet smaller. But it's also fair to acknowledge that since he limped preflop, him holding 6,7 or two diamonds could have been just as likely. (He played the hand like 6,7 or suited cards. Limping and calling preflop. An ace queen would seem more likely for the button who raised preflop).

But most of all you can see how easy it is to get greedy at poker and do some Monday Morning Quarterbacking.

A few minutes later I got into it again with the cut off seat guy. This time I had King 4 and after the river came the board was King, Jack, 8, 4, 4. I hit a runner runner full house.

The final 4 was also the third club and thus also completed any flush draws.

My opponent bets 40 on the end. He had also bet flop and turn.

I raise to 140 and hope he's hit a flush. I'm 95% sure I want him to call. If he's gonna reraise with the flush even better.

But as he's sitting there playing with his chips and thinking about it I suddenly think "Oh my goodness. If he reraises me it possible he could have limped with pocket jacks?"

Do I just call? What if he goes all in? It was an interesting moment for me. He was a fellow big stack. I guess an all in bet could be a bad player with an ace high flush thinking it's good. But that would be one tough call for all my chips. Cause he could have limped preflop with and hit a set of jacks. He did bet every street after seeing the flop. Funny how none of this occurred to me before I bet.

This flurry was followed by an hour of unplayable hands. It got bad enough for me to start limping a couple of times with any two suited. Which also tells me it might be time to leave soon.

It's 3am and I pick up ace king and raise it to 20. Button, who only has 200 in front of him, makes it 50. Because he only has 200 a reraise all in here isn't unreasonable but this time I talk myself out of it. I believe him. I think he has a pair. I don't need to go all in and flip a coin for 200. I don't need to go all in every time I get good cards.

I don't raise. But I do call.

If I can hit an ace or king on the flop I'm guessing he'll continue bet and we can play for the rest of his chips. That's the best case scenario.

The worst case scenario is I call $30 here and fold when I miss on the flop.

And that's what happened. But at least I only lost an additional 30 and not 170.

It felt weak but safe. Most of the time I don't need to gamble with these players. They're usually willing to gamble with me when I have the best of it. So there's no great need to watch an ace king race pocket 9's for 200 bucks. Well other than the entertainment value.

A few hands later I saw a 2,5,8 flop with pocket 10's. A woman who hadn't played many hands fired out 25 from the blinds and I called. Everyone else folds.

A 9 comes on the turn. She checks. I put her on ace 8. I bet 35. She calls.

River is a 3. She checks.

I've noticed that one of the leaks in my game is sometimes I leave money on the table by not value betting the river often enough when I'm ahead.

The "way of the safe and the weak" is to bet the flop and the turn and if someone sticks around you check the river in position and just showdown.

The main benefit for those who follow the "way of the safe and the weak" is that you never get check raised on the river. This works well if you have a hand that might be the best at showdown but not strong enough to call a reraise at the end with.

But I've been noticing lately that my cards are often ahead at showdown. So I'm trying to get more value out of them. Bet more often without holding the nuts. And if I get checkraised, I'll just have to figure out whether I'm beat or not.

So on this particular hand rather than being completely safe and checking the river, I trust my read and go ahead and bet a healthy 60.

Heck I put her on ace 8. Why not bet it like that?

She thought about it for awhile. And then she called.

I showed my overpair. She mucked.

I dug this hand because I won 120 post flop despite not making any big moves. No huge bets. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just 25+35+60. But somehow this pot snuck up on us and got big. Normally to get someone to put 120 dollars into the middle at 2/5 they need to be holding big cards or have a big draw. But here the money was slowly extracted.

For me to even write about this hand just shows how much money I've been leaving out there on the river. My focus has been on winning the big pots. That's how I make my money. I haven't been as curious to see how much I can make off of my top pair.

Until now.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I Know That Feeling

It was Wednesday night at 11:30 PM and I was sitting at home reading.

You know. Minding my own business.

I wasn't that tired and it suddenly occurred to me that I live in Las Vegas.

Within minutes I could be at the Bellagio. I could play a few hands. And then come back home.

I got dressed and ran out the door.

Driving down to the strip I amused myself with the thought that if I was about to lose money then in a few hours I'd be saying to myself "Damn why couldn't I just have gone to sleep?"

And of course if I won money then it would be a great way to have spent a few early morning hours.

By Midnight I was seated at a 2/5 table and bought in for 500.

It was a wonderfully crazy table. Typical action was a 10 dollar straddle followed by an over raise preflop to 50. And then like 4 callers.

Money was moving fast. And so anytime I got playable cards in position I was happy to come along for the ride.

The only problem was that I couldn't win a hand.

I was trying real hard to get into a pot with this one particular guy who fired out 50 dollar raises from any position with any 2 cards. Lets call him the Maniac. I was prepared to pay the Maniac off if he could beat anything real.

But I just couldn't hit.

By 1:30 AM I was down 200 bucks but it really wasn't that horrible considering that I still hadn't won a single hand. This despite being on my 4th dealer.

There's something funny about a dealer coming in for their (30 minute?) shift and then leaving without pushing a single pot in my direction. But it gets even more amusing when it happens 3 or 4 times in a row.

Around 2 AM I limped in under the gun with 5,7 suited and flopped two pair.

There were two other players in the hand. One was the Maniac who kept raising to 50 preflop.

The other guy was a pretty poor player who kept winning pots. This guy played any ace. And he would actually make moves like put in a huge river bet with his ace rag (after hitting an ace) because he wants to see if he can get the better aces to fold.

He was all about putting in additional money when he might not have the best of it.

Sure it's fine to bet your nuts for value. Or bet big (bluff) if you think it's the only way to take down the pot. But this guy was constantly betting his medium stuff which is dangerous for him because he would usually only get called when beat. And not make any additional money when he's ahead.

Back to the hand - when I flopped two pair I checked to the maniac. He obliged and bet 50. The poor player called of course. But he was cold calling all night. This call meant nothing.

Now normally I'd raise here. I'd reach for $200 and shove it out there. I'm happy to take it down if they fold. I'm also happy to let them gamble and chase draws.

But after watching this maniac play for the past two hours I got greedy and just called. I wanted to give him the chance to bet the turn too. I knew I was ahead and didn't want to show strength and risk his folding.

What I didn't know was that the poor player called the 50 flop bet with 5,9. He had a pair of 5's with a 9 kicker. Now he might be right to think that he's ahead of the maniac. But he isn't ahead of my two pair. Or at least he wasn't until a 9 came on the turn.

Now this poor player fires out 100. Like I said, I've seen him bet his top pair weak kicker many times so I immediately call. So does the Maniac.

River is a king. Now the poor player checks and says out loud "You both called me on the turn so I gotta check the river."

At this point I genuinely think I have the best hand. I don't fear the Maniac. And if a king on the river scares the poor player then he probably can't beat a pair of kings.

So I value bet $100.

Maniac folds. Poor player calls and shows me his 5,9.

I guess I could have saved the 100 on the end but I really thought I was ahead. It also occurs to me now that maybe I could have won this hand by checking and perhaps inducing the Maniac to make a huge bluff bet. It would have to be huge enough to get the poor player to fold his two pair. And then I could have called.

Of course the best part of this hand was the poor player calling 50 on flop with middle pair 5's and his 9 kicker. These are the people I want to play with.

The other thing that stands out to me here is that it was like we (me and the poor player) were both playing the hand solely against the Maniac. We were both ignoring the fact that each other was also there. All we both knew was that we were each beating the maniac.

The poor player probably folds if I reraise on the flop. But then again if I could actually see his cards on the flop, I like having him still in the hand. Many times I win lots of money slowplaying like this. So I'm not about to whine when I get sucked out on.

This hand cost me 250.

Down 450 I took out 3 hundred dollar bills and placed them under my remaining $50 in chips.

The very next hand I'm in the big blind and the Maniac raises preflop to 50. I called with queen 10 suited but missed the flop. I checked and folded.

I've now sat here for two hours. I still haven't won a pot. I'm down 500.

But think of all the money I'm saving in tips.

A few hands later I finally pick up something strong. Pocket jacks.

There's a raise in front of me to 20. A couple of callers.

I think about reraising here. I can take down 60 bucks if they all fold.

Two things slow me down.

1- Initial raiser was tight. So when he raises in early position he certainly could have something that isn't scared of pocket jacks.

2- I'm greedy. I don't want to win just 60. I want to flop a set and double up. I have no problem with folding and donating my 20 bucks here if the flop comes out with overcards. So I call.

There's another call behind me and then a pretty loose player in the blinds raises it to 200.

The big moment for me comes when the early position raiser FOLDS. He was the one I was scared of. I do not fear the big blind and his overbet.

I quickly shove out the rest of my chips. I expect to see ace king. I'm not stressed here. If I lose the race then I get to go home.

Dude turns over pocket 9's.

I really don't like the reraise by the big blind with pocket 9's here. He may as well save this move for when he has 2,7 off. In other words he's only getting called if he's beat. And if everyone folds he wins regardless of his cards. So it seems wasteful to me to try this big raise move in a cash game with a medium pocket pair. Do it with the nuts. Or nothing.

My jacks hold up. I'm up to 676.

A few hands later a similar situation came up. I called $20 preflop with pocket 10's. And the same guy who raised to 200 with his 9's, mini raises the 20 to 35.

Everyone smooth calls and as it gets back to me I'm SO TEMPTED to push my 10's.

I'm pretty sure all the folks who just called the 35 will fold. So it's all about the big blind guy. I assume he's got something like suited connectors and his miniraise here is just building a pot in case he flops a draw. There's a much smaller chance that he has a big pair and is trying to trap if someone else reraises.

But I'm in position so I decide to just call and see the flop.

I was probably right about the big blind's hand because he checked and folded on a king jack flop.

2:22 AM. I take a bathroom break. I have 614 on the table. I'm down 186. I'm now on my 5th dealer. I've still won only 1 hand.

2:45 AM. I am playing poker to the sounds of vacuums moving across the Bellagio. This reminds me of living in New York City and playing Madden with friends all night. At some point we'd start to hear the early morning garbage trucks from outside the window.

2:53 AM. 582 on table. Down 218.

3:03 AM. New dealer. One winning hand in 3 hours. Uh maybe I should switch seats???????

3:12 AM. 470 on table. Down 330.

3:16 AM. Pocket queens under the gun. I limp (of course) because someone is going to raise behind me. The raise comes. We go all in. I stack him. I'm up to high 600's.

3:20 AM. I have 663 on table. Down 137 when my table breaks. I go to new table and immediately flop two pair in big blind but lose the pot to a guy who rivers a bigger two pair.

3:38 AM. 574 on table. Down 226. I still think it's pretty amazing to only be down 226 when I've now won exactly 2 pots in over 3.5 hours.

I lose 30 bucks with ace queen vs queens.

I lose 20 bucks calling with 6,7 suited on button in 4 way pot.

3:48 AM. I have 519 dollars on the table. I'm down 281.

3:52 AM. I pick up pocket aces. Two limpers for 5 bucks. I limp too.

Guy to my left raises to 20. Everyone calls.

Action gets back to me and I make it 125 total. A raise of 105.

Guy to my left is thinking about it. After a minute or so he reraises me 200 more!

I reraise all in. He calls.

I'm expecting to see kings or queens. At worst ace king.

Instead he turns over pocket 2's.

And so what happens?

Dealer turns over the flop and sitting in the window as the first visible card is a 2.


That mo fo hit a set.

Luckily, gratefully, thankfully, an ace came out as well.

We both flopped sets.

Somehow he doesn't hit quads.

And just like that I win my 3rd pot in almost 4 hours. I'm up to 1058.

Afterwards as I was walking out of the poker room the pocket deuces guy was standing there smoking a cigarette. I've seen him play before. He's a good player. So it was sort of strange to see him make that move. Perhaps it was 4 AM tilt.

We made eye contact so I stopped to acknowledge him. Although I couldn't really think of anything to say.

The best I finally mustered up was "So I guess you put me on ace king there?"

He says "No. I put you on aces. I wanted to get up."

And you know what?

I believed him.

I know that feeling.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

From the Stoner League to a Mormon Church

I played basketball last night!

Damn it's nice to be sore today.

I hadn't been on a court since last December in the weekly "stoner league" in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. You don't have be stoned to play. The idea behind the name is to emphasize the spirit of the game and encourage guys not to be overly competitive. You know. Lower their expectations.

You want to get upset over the game? Hey buddy. This is the stoner league. Just calm down.

Most 30-somethings who play pick-up basketball are there to get exercise. Maybe this should be obvious. But you'd surprised how many guys treat their once a week appearance on the court like it's game 7 of the NBA Finals.

My run last night took place in a Mormon Church.

Unlike the stoner league, no one went out for drinks afterwards.

I only knew 1 of the 15 guys in the gym. The guy who invited me.

I kept cutting to the hoop but no one passed me the ball. This was fine. My game was rusty and I was satisfied to run up and down the court.

After awhile I noticed that their lack of passing to me wasn't personal. They didn't pass the ball to each other either. It was all just one-on-one play. Too much dribbling. Drive to the hoop. Stop suddenly. Take a bad fade-away shot. Repeat the process.

Little do they know that if they give me the ball I'm going to set them up. I'm going to go down low, get doubled teamed and find the open guy. The last thing I want to do is shoot the ball.

Once I get my legs back and can run for more than 15 seconds I'm going to play point forward and confuse the hell out of these guys.

I might even shave "Anthony Mason" into the side of head.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Waiting For Godot

I sat down for a couple of 2/5 sessions this past weekend at the Bellagio and saw way too many playable hands. This of course resulted in a whole lot more variance than I'm used to. Thank God I'm not results oriented and attached to the outcome.

(Insert canned laughter).

It was a pretty good sitcom to sit in my seat to the left of the dealer. Seat #1 kept getting good but not great starting hands. Alot of stuff that gets tricky to play post flop. Mostly my cards missed and when I bet I got called. I bled for the first 3 hours.

I responded by limping more and raising less. I figured they'd still pay me off whenever I actually did hit. As far as they knew I was just a guy playing too many hands. They had no idea that I had real cards over and over again.

And the truth is they shouldn't respect me. I'm the guy they haven't seen win a hand in 3 hours. They are correct to call me down.

After 180 minutes of hell in seat 1, I switched over to seat 6 and gosh darn it the next hand I hit the nut flush and got paid off nicely.

What's up with that?

Then a new guy came to the table and sat down in my old seat. For what it's worth - I cannot recall him winning a hand over the next two hours.

I was mounting my comeback. I was still down money but I was focused on playing tight and just trying to win back what I could. Not force anything. Just show patience.

To induce calmness I tried to reframe the experience to myself as:

"I am playing poker with money I won earlier in the week. I'm still up from where I started."

I just needed to relax and wait for the next good opportunity to present itself. That's often all the game is. Waiting for Opportunity. And much like Beckett's Waiting For Godot there is plenty of waiting. Plenty of hopelessness. Plenty of despair.

One thing is clear. I don't need to focus on the chips I lost earlier. That's par for the course and not cause for (existential) angst. I've watched 500 or 1000 bucks disappear plenty of times at 2/5. I know that it will come back to me. I just need a good situation.

And about an hour later my good situation happened.

Godot finally showed up. And normally I might have folded him. But an aggressive guy in early position raised to 20 and this enticed two callers in front of me.

I was in the big blind and it would cost me 15 bucks to join what would be an 80 dollar pot going into the flop.

The good news is I expect the preflop raiser to fire out on the flop. So if I can hit a miracle I think I can get paid off nicely.

And my hand is perfect for this spot.

I've got 6,3 suited. The JFK.

Life is simple with the 6,3 suited. You know where you stand. There's no sweating to see if your kicker is good.

The flop was an interesting 2,5,9 rainbow.

I check my gutshot and inexplicably the preflop raiser checks too. Wow.

He had followed through with a flop bet pretty much every other time he raised preflop.

I would have folded here to any decent bet.

I was relieved to see the other 2 guys check behind as well.

The turn is my miracle gut shot 4. I have the nut straight. How did that happen?

It also put 2 hearts out on the board. I check. My hand is incredibly well disguised and I'm not ready to show strength. I think there's a good chance the preflop raiser will still get some action going. Someone has to take a shot at winning this thing. There's 80 bucks sitting out there. Most of the guys at this table will fire a bullet in this spot with nothing. I've been here for awhile and they don't check down hands at this table.

My preflop raiser checks again but the good news is a dude wearing some dark shades on the button bets 50.

I shove 200 forward.

(Side note: I'm really starting to dig the "I've got two fists of twenty reds in each hand" raise.)

The other two guys fold. Dark shades guy asks me how much I have left. I count out my chips.

He says "I'm all in."

I call and then look towards his cards in eager anticipation.

What will I have to avoid on the river?

Maybe a flush draw?

Or does he have a set and need the board to pair?

He turned over his cards to reveal the best news possible:

Ace 3 for the lower straight. The only card that can help him on the river is a 6 to give him a chop. It doesn't happen and just like that I'm up.

It's always those crap hands that take stacks.

I won a second big pot later on this session also holding the 6,3. It went 2 for 2. Meanwhile I probably lost around $500 in the hands where I held ace queen.

In an earlier entry this past Spring I sung the merits of the 2,5 suited. Tonight it was the 3,6.

It might be time to update my top 10 starting hands.

The new list looks something like this:
1- Ace Ace
2- King King
3- Queen Queen
4- Ace King
5- The 3,6 suited
6- The 2,5 suited

7- Jack Jack

8-The Queen, 9 suited, Pocket 3's, and the 10, Jack suited

9-- Any suited connector
10- Any pair Tens or lower

I can't believe I'm sharing this with you.

It's almost like giving away the secret formula for Coca Cola.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Second Wind

When my wife and I visited NYC last month, we walked around the old neighborhood and it was as if the whole Vegas Year was just a dream.

If we had gone up to our old apartment and our stuff was still there I would have completely believed it.

And why not? This whole year has been a blur.

We're now in our 9th month and recent discussions have revolved around what to do next.

At least that's what everyone related to me wants to know.

What are we going to do next year?

As if this year is already over.

And when we went back East I was open to having this conversation. I had been on a losing streak and certainly had no interest in losing more.

If poker isn't happening for me then there are plenty of interesting cities near large bodies of water that we'd much prefer to live in.

Yet when we got back to Nevada after our August NY trip I must admit that I missed our house. Our car. Our stuff. Our life. Dare I say Vegas?

I've taken notice that the clock is ticking. Our lease runs out in a few months and so I feel the urgency to make the most of my time living here.

I'm putting in more hours than before. Trying to play as much as I can. And why not? It's not crazy to think this could be the only time I ever live in Vegas.

If poker continues to be a big part of my life maybe I could stay here part time some day but as far as living here full time I think this is the moment. This is the chance.

At the end of every month I always look back at the stats and think I could have played more. But it's also real easy to avoid the strip when you live here.

If I was still in NYC and you told me I could be at the Bellagio in 15 minutes - you'd see me at the Bellagio in 15 minutes. But living here I have to pump myself up to go. And it's fine once I'm there. But I definitely do not wake up each day and think I can't wait to go play poker! Maybe that's what I need kids for.

So yeah it seems pretty unlikely that we'd move back here.

Like if we move to another state am I really going to suggest at some point that we move to Vegas? With those previously mentioned futuristic children?

Probably not. So whatever it is that I'm going to accomplish in Vegas needs to happen now.

Where this whole adventure has changed for the better is suddenly there seems to be opportunity for us to prosper here. It took awhile to plant the various seeds. And let them grow.

Looking back now on the past 9 months it seems absurd to have expected an easy and smooth transition. As if we've moved many times to Vegas to play poker full time. It's ridiculous to believe that we were going to have immediate success but I'm sure we did.

Why would things be easy? Why should things be easy? How could we know how to live life here?

We were new. We had no friends. We didn't know our neighbors for months. Didn't know any good restaurants. Didn't know where to buy things. Had no idea where to go for fun.

And as far as my work goes no one ever taught me how to be a professional poker player.

I have no mentor. It's all been trial and error.

As time goes on I continue to have the best of it at the table. And with growing detachment I might add.

So where are we?

I don't mind walking away from Vegas. I don't need to be here.

However the result I witness everyday at the table tells me to stay.

And so the dream continues.

Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in.

Maybe Vegas isn't so bad.

It could just be the 10 degree drop in temperature but I think we're starting to adjust to this crazy place.

Sure we spent the first 6 months saying it wasn't New York and complaining about living here.

But now we're locals. And it feels like home.

Or at least home until our house gets foreclosed!

Vegas housing bubble baby!

Not even us renters are safe.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

They Call It Grinding.

Tuesday night at the Bellagio.

Pretty tight table. Not too much action.

And to add to my lack of opportunity my best hole cards were pocket 9's.

I guess it kept me out of trouble.

The most I was down was $80. The most I was up was $150.

I finally left at 230 in the morning after 5 hours up 100 bucks.

I'd like to think this was the kind of night where in the past I'd have forced the action and taken some chances to double my stack. You know. Make something happen.

But not this time.

I guess I'm finally believing in the concept that the entire poker year is just one long session. We've all heard it before. But it's finally sinking into my bones.

It doesn't matter how much I win or lose on a Tuesday night at the Bellagio. It only matters that I play each hand correctly.

Forcing the action and losing money today only means that I first need to win back that money tomorrow.

Just to get even.

Much better for me to fold and wait.

And then come back tomorrow.

Especially against tight players on a Tuesday night who won't pay me off when I actually hit.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

"But they don't have anything smaller."

Those were his exact words.

The guy was talking to his buddies by the rail in the Bellagio poker room. They were all in town from Chicago and looking to play some no limit poker. One of the friends wanted a second opinion so he asked the poker room manager where he could find a smaller game.

The manager told him "Go across the street. Caesars has 1/2."

You know. That slum we call the Caesars Palace poker room. And so rather than exit the Bellagio these guys decided to sit down at my 2/5 table.

At other casinos like MGM, Palms and Caesars, 2/5 no limit is usually the biggest game. When you sit down to play at these tables it's most likely that you are facing the best players in the room. But with 2/5 being the Bellagio's smallest no limit game, the worst players in the room often sit there. And they just get eaten alive.

The Bellagio poker room kind of reminds me of living in New York City. That no nonsense attitude. The "If I can make it there I'll make it anywhere" mentality.

What are the top 7 reasons that the Bellagio poker room reminds me of NYC?

1- None of the suits working the room have any problem at all with ignoring you. I hesitate to even call these guys poker room managers. They're more like Maitre de's.

2- Everything is so expensive that even rich people feel poor.

3- There is a feeling of history.

This might seem silly to say about a casino that opened in 1998 but when you spend years reading about the Bellagio, it can have that Madison Square Garden mystique. This is the room where Doyle plays. Just like MSG is the court that Willis Reed limped onto.

When I go to the Wynn I appreciate the beauty but it feels more like the Staples Center. There's not too much history. Just some good looking people and alot of really nice sky boxes.

4- Much like New York City, if you look around the Bellagio you're going to see famous faces you recognize. And much like New York City, no one bothers them.

5- The Bellagio's North Entrance. Every Brooklyn driver knows how to get to the bridges using side streets if there is traffic on the BQE. Every Manhattan driver knows how to approach the tunnels without using the major cross streets. Similarly, the Bellagio has a valet on the North side that avoids my ever having to drive on the Strip. This entrance is also close to the poker room. Using this entrance will add years to my life.


How wonderful is this? In my first "Vegas fact" I reported that in Vegas cash games you don't have to show your cards when you go all in.

This is not true at the Bellagio. And I love it!

Showing cards means I gain a ton of information on my opponents. And of course it helps prevent collusion.

My comparison to NYC here is that New York's "no nonsense, no BS, you can't park that car here attitude" often feels like having to show your cards. You can't hide them. People will call you out on it.

7- If I can make it there I'll make it anywhere.

Don't underestimate this one. I was intimidated to play at the Bellagio. I'd heard stories from people that swayed me to go play elsewhere. But now I want to be a part of it. I've spent the past 8 months at other casinos. Getting my game ready. Transitioning from internet to live play. Adjusting from tournament to cash play.

Sitting at the Bellagio on Saturday night the thought occurred to me that here I was playing in one of the most famous poker rooms in the world.

If I can win money in this room, I can win money anywhere.

Poker is becoming more and more like driving a car or riding a bike. At first when attempting these activities you think about a million little things. And then you wake up one day and suddenly there is no more thinking.

Just doing.

It used to be that I'd get excited when I spotted a tell.

Now I just react.

I played 3 big pots Saturday night. All 3 times I held a huge edge when all the money went in.

And all 3 times my edge held up.

Then I went home and turned back on my water.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

A Place Called Hope

The leak thing I've mentioned previously has continued to be an issue.

We've had people out to fix it multiple times the past few weeks. Yet each time after they've finished plugging something up, the water dial outside my house continues to spin. So the leak guys just have to keep coming back.

In between these partially successful attempts I've tried to play poker.

I can't sit here and do nothing until it gets resolved.

But it also gets very confusing/discouraging etc when chaos ensues each time I go down to play.

The pattern from the past month or two is a few days go by after I lose and I recover and say to myself that this is completely ridiculous.

I'm not going to let some superstition keep me home.

And so I go back.

But when I go back I inevitably witness more mathematical catastrophes.

And then feel even dumber for having gone and played. For having doubted it.

So this week I felt okay waiting until yesterday to play again because the plumbing people were coming over.

They dug stuff up. Who knows?

For all I know a Findlay sprinker head with a Langston 7" gangly wrench may have been involved.

But when all was said and done they fixed all the outside leaks. This is confirmed.

However once again when we went back to the water dial it was still moving. Albeit the good news is it was moving very slowly. (I've never used "albeit" in a sentence before but it sort of felt right).

So at least the remaining leak is small. We also now know that what remains of the problem is inside the house.

But I also had to go and play last night. I couldn't sit home on a Friday night.

We searched around the house for assorted valves. I was going to shut off everything I could.

We've tried this many times before but last night I found a knob that I hadn't noticed. And upon turning this thing our water meter finally came to a complete stop.

(Deep breath).

I got showered and headed down to the Bellagio.

15/30 was a fifteen person wait so I sat down immediately at 2/5 no limit.

My seat was great in that I was facing inward. Half the seats at my table were facing out towards all the beautiful people walking through the Bellagio doing their Friday night club scene.

The MTV Awards are in Vegas this weekend. The last thing I need to be doing while playing poker is staring at human beings not at my table. Unlike the two men directly across from me who kept staring over my head at the scene the entire time.

The best thing I can say about my session is I did not force anything. Just waited. I enjoyed the folding. I tried to frame it as a relief. In other words folding means I can relax. It's only the hands that I play that I need to worry about. There's absolutely no need for me to waste any energy on the fact that I'm getting lousy cards.

My first playable hand came in the big blind. The guy to my left straddled for 10. There were 4 callers. I chose to smooth call out of position with pocket jacks. I might raise here with a bigger pair. Or with nothing. But with pocket jacks I wanted to take a look at the flop and proceed from there.

The guy to my right only had 85 bucks in front of him so I figured there was a good chance he was pushing on the flop.

The guy who straddled looks at his cards and raises it to 50 bucks. It gets folded to the 85 buck guy on my right. He just calls. He doesn't push.

I think this through and decide he makes this call because he doesn't have a pocket pair. If he had a pocket pair he'd raise to try to get rid of me. He wants me and my money in there too. He's not trying to scare me out. I oblige and call the 50.

Flop comes 8 high with 2 diamonds and as expected the small blind pushes in for his last 35 bucks.

Since the preflop raise came from a straddler I don't fear the overpair. His raise seemed likely to be a move. I do think it's very possible he has an overcard or two. So I come over the top here and raise it to $200.

Straddler sits back in his seat, exhales and shakes his head. Good news. It's clear he doesn't have me. He mumbles a bit. Shows his cards to his friend behind him, gets chastised by the dealer for this action, and then folds.

I turn over my jacks. Small blind turns over the 2,3 of diamonds.

He called the raise to 50 preflop with 2.3. I'd respect that call alot more if he had alot of chips in front of him. If he could win alot of money if he hits. But all he's doing preflop is taking the worst of it for his last 85.

The dealer peels off the turn and river. They're both overcards. And neither is a diamond.

The guy to my left who folded after my $200 bet says "Damn it. I would have won the hand!"

I'm about to read way too much into the result of this 1 random hand but let the record state that my jacks held up. After the way poker has gone for me the past 2 months I've started to expect my hand to lose.

But last night after finally getting my house to stop wasting water my hand held up.

I guess it doesn't matter if it's real or I just believe it's real. Either way I'm ready to play poker.

And don't get me and my insanity wrong. There were plenty of races I lost last night. That's fine. That's the game.

But something about winning with pocket jacks versus 2,3 suited in my first hand after shutting my water off was ENORMOUSLY important to my psyche.

Two other items of interest from last night.

A young (early 20's) club kid was falling asleep at the table in between hands.

It was hard to tell what drug he was on or if this was just the result of his having a lack of sleep. Either way after 10 minutes he woke up and bet 30 bucks. Just sort of threw the chips out there sloppily.

If what he was doing was playing a character then he's a genius because everyone (including myself) was dying to play with him.

And of course despite the raise to 30 he got a couple of callers.

Flops comes 2,4,9 and young club kid bets out. Guy to my right (with pocket 8's) raises him all in. Club kid calls.

The unsuspected ending: Club kid turns over pocket 2's and shows the table his set.

Guy to my right starts mumbling about the kid having 2's and raising preflop to 30 with them.

I didn't witness enough of the kid's play to know if the whole falling asleep thing was a con or he just got lucky on the one hand he played. But either way I gotta say "Nice hand club kid."

The other item worth sharing watching the dude to my left in action. And I ain't talking poker.

We chatted a little bit and this gentleman was a nice guy who lives in Vegas. Basically what he explained to me was that when he goes on dates with women in Vegas, he has them meet him at the poker room or the sports book.

This way he can buy them their first drink or two and it only costs him the $1 tip per drink!

Another genius. I'm surrounded by them.

Talk about positive expected value.

And right as I was about to leave the table I got to see him at work.

He had barely responded to a text message when he suddenly popped his head up and said to the waitress "Two Malibu and pineapples please."

I guess the eagle had landed.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Fantasy Football

I haven't posted here the past few days mainly because I've been busy with fantasy football responsibilities.

I'm the commissioner of a league that's now in year 14.

It's hard to decide what to do with it.

Does it go on for the next 50 years? Are we near the end?

On one hand it's a wonderful hobby. A way to keep in touch with some old friends. And I genuinely enjoy the strategic decisions. The competition.

On the other hand it takes up alot of my time. There is plenty of stress being in charge.

People think I'm on call at any hour of the day to take care of their fantasy stuff.

A few mentally challenged owners think it's okay to yell at me when they don't get their way.

The last 4 years running I've been cursed out at our auction by an angry owner who then threatens to quit.

10 years ago I'd worry about this.

Now I don't try to stop them. Leave. Go right ahead. Makes no difference to me. I'll reconstruct the league with one less team. Or we'll find another owner. Who really cares?

This is one of the great things about having spent the past few years playing poker.

Other people's unwarranted bullshit does very little to me these days.

Back in the day I'd worry about appeasing them. I'd go out of my way to fix things. I took running the league very seriously. Like a job.

In 2007 it's all entertainment baby. If the league falls apart, it falls apart.

It's certainly not worth getting upset over.

These days I'm much more interested in the subtext of why someone acts like a jerk. I've learned to separate it from myself. To understand that their anger has nothing to do with me.

And it's all because of sitting at a poker table.

Who knew poker had so many benefits?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Stepping Up

I finally stepped up in limits and tried some 500,000/1,000,000.

Even all the way up here at this level the players are just awful.

People still playing like it's 25/50 cent internet poker.

The biggest adjustment to 500,000/1,000,000 is dealing with the huge crazy variance.

REALLY BIG swings.

Especially when you play short handed.

It's alot of pressure.

One nice thing about playing as high as 500,000/1,000,000 is it really cuts down on the time I have to spend at the table each week.

1 or 2 hands is usually enough.

Monday, September 03, 2007

15/30 at the Bellagio

I played a pretty long session of 15/30 at the Bellagio this weekend. I fell down a deep hole early due to a flurry of ugliness. I won most of it back over the next 8 hours. The result wasn't that great but I really liked what I saw at the table.

I will be back for more 15/30 at the Bellagio. I'd even go so far as to say that the 30/60 game looked pretty damn good. Almost easier than the 15/30 game. I saw more grinder types at 15/30. Playing one or two hands an hour. At the 30/60 table behind me I kept witnessing 4 or 5 players seeing flops.

The Bellagio is just so full of money. There's some money at the Wynn or Venetian but not like this. It's can be startling to walk through the Bellagio poker room and see how big some of the games are. High levels spread all over the place and these huge mountains of chips. And these are the lower level tables. This isn't the separate high rollers section in the back right of the room. Or "Bobby's Room" enclosed in glass in the back middle.

So the good news is I finally found the money. Now I just gotta figure out how to take it.

I was on a mission to play limit. Most no limit players like myself usually find something less stimulating about switching to limit play. The high of the huge raise is missing. The guessing game isn't as intense. One big mistake isn't as costly. It's much more about the cards and pounding your bets. But what I learned this weekend is limit poker is alot of fun when you play it at higher limits. Suddenly each bet matters again.

For me that meant stepping up to 15/30 where I could easily win or lose a grand in a session.

When I play 3/6 or 4/8 it's usually a couple of hundred bucks swing either way.

But with 15/30 pretty much any hand I took to showdown was gonna cost me $105 minimum. (30 preflop + 15 flop + 30 turn + 30 river = $105). And that's not including the reraises that occur on most flops and turns. Thus it's alot of fun to look down at your 2 hole cards and decide whether or not to take this 100 to 150 dollar ride. If nothing else it sure makes it easier to fold borderline hands.

My $105 example at 15/30 comes out to 3.5 big bets. That's the typical cost of showdown. If you're playing 3/6 that same 3.5 bets is only 21 dollars. You don't notice it as much.

If you're playing 150/300 then 3.5 big bets is $1050. At 4000/8000 it's $28,000.

But it's still just 3.5 big bets. Financially it's all just zeros.

Once you look at it this way, the game is simple. Play correctly. And be properly bankrolled.

At 3/6 it's often hard to find a reason to fold. It's only 3 or 6 bucks. How do you not see a flop?

And in the past I've talked myself into bad calls with logic like "I have position." Or "This guy who raised is loose and playing too many hands." And of course the classic "I think I'm getting pot odds."

But at 15/30 when someone raises it up to 30 preflop, and your bankroll matters to you, it gets expensive to cold call too often. Actually even if you got money to burn, most hands aren't good enough to cold call a raise preflop. There are plenty of hands you might reraise with but you don't really want to be cold calling too often.

Of course the other problem with playing low level limit is that the results are usually not very dramatic.

(Except for the same 4 dollar rake. That really stuck out to me as a reason to step up in levels. They're taking $4 out of my 60 dollar pot at 3/6. I'm pretty sure they were only taking $4 out of my $300 pot at 15/30. It's pretty clear what the better deal is.)

At 3/6 if I win 15 big bets in a session I walk away with 90 dollars which is basically insignificant. But take that same session over to 15/30 and it's a $450 gain. And while $450 is certainly not life changing, it's definitely a much more worthwhile use of my time.

Best of all I think playing higher stakes motivates me to play better. Because it matters.

There's much more raising and much less limping as you go up in levels. The players I find the toughest to play against are the ones who never cold call. The players who either raise or fold.

I used to fear them. Now when facing them in a hand I've learned to embrace the experience.
I am supposed to reraise but quite often I just hold on and call them down. They're not afraid to fire out 3 bullets even when they've missed the board entirely. And so I let them.

This is what makes stepping up in limits difficult. Like lets say I've raised from middle position preflop with pocket 9's and the big blind calls. The flop comes 5,10, jack. It gets to checked to me and I bet, but then get check raised from the big blind. What do I do now? Give it up? Call him down? Reraise back?

What this 15 dollar reraise really represents is 75 dollars. That's gonna be the price to call him here and then his bets on turn and river. And so it becomes a big decision when it occurs over and over again throughout the course of an evening.

At 3/6 it only costs 15 dollars to call someone down here. But at 15/30 it's 75 bucks a mistake. And those $75's add up quickly if you're a bad player. So you really need to distinguish which players are capable of this bluff check raise and which players are just REALLY trying to tell you that they have top pair jack.

One of the players at my table this weekend was Hal Lubarsky who was recently featured in ESPN's coverage of the WSOP main event.

Hal can't see. He has a buddy who sits next to him and looks at Hal's hole cards each hand and whispers the information into Hal's ear.

And then the buddy does play by play announcing of the rest of the hand.
"The turn is the 4 of spades. Seat 7 checks Seat 9 bets. Seat 2 folds. The action is to you."

It's fascinating to play with someone who has a disability.

You might remember when I played William Rockwell in July he played tight, I got no cards and we basically stayed out of each other's way.

But Hal liked to play alot of hands.

And so it was inevitable that I ended up in a bunch of hands with him.

Hal and his buddy were real good together.

It occurred to me that they held a huge edge.

Playing against the two of them was a unique situation for me.

But for them playing me and the rest of the table is exactly what they're used to.

It's kind of like if you're a boxer and you've only fought right handed fighters. And then they throw you in the ring with a left hander. And suddenly the big punch is coming from the other side. There's definitely a period of adjustment.

I can admit that at first I was distracted. It was absolutely fascinating to watch a blind man play poker. Talk about a poker face. And it was real hard to put him on a hand.

In fact Hal check raised me twice on the first hand we played together. You'd think I would have checked the turn after he check raised me on the flop. But no. I wanted to get a bet in. And he made it two bets. I made the good fold and he showed me his good cards which only made me think he was going to be up to something later on.

This intuition seemed on target as he began raising too many hands. I called Hal down with middle pair. I thought he'd fire away with nothing and this strategy worked out when he instantly mucked his cards after I called his river bet.

Hal and his accomplice pose an interesting situation for poker. The rule has always been clearly "one man to a hand." I completely support Hal's right to play. Perhaps the way to do it is with braille cards. Or to put something on each card that identifies itself electronically. Kind of like whatever they put on items that get checked out at a store.

With either of these suggestions my goal is to eliminate the part of the present equation where Hal has his friend whispering in his ear.

This is the only part of the experience that seemed unnecessary to me.

And trust me. Hal doesn't need this kid whispering in his ear. Hal doesn't need help. Hal knows how to play. But I still think resolving how a blind man can play poker without having someone whisper in his ear would be a good thing for poker.

Meanwhile before he left the table, Hal checkraised me a third time.

Once shame on him. Twice shame on me. But three times?

This final time it almost cost him. He checked the turn and gave me a free card when I had up to possibly 20 outs. And then he check raised the river with his big pair. Too bad I missed.

Perhaps I am advancing as a poker player because I had no issues at all about drawing out and taking a blind man's money.