Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Litmus Test

“If a judge rules that poker is a game of luck you should use this as a litmus test that he is not very bright and you should get rid of him.”
-Barry Greenstein on Internet Poker Legislation

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Understanding My Job

When I go to work, my job isn't to make money.


That would be paying attention to results.

My job is simply to get my chips in good.

Over and over again.

That's it.

That's my job.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

No Limit Is Dead!

The poker bubble has burst! The fad is over! Get out quick!

You know who is playing No Limit? Old people at the Sahara.

I played at the Sahara the other night and it felt like playing at an American Legion. Something about the low ceilings. It just didn't feel official. It felt like when you play in an illegal cardroom. They didn't give a receipt for my tournament buy in. I got knocked out in level 7 yet still hadn't heard anything about total rebuys or what the prize pool was. It felt like playing at someone's home tournament in Staten Island. Oh and I will absolutely be back.

What else? The post prior to this was intended to share the idea that I thought I could move up in levels more safely at limit than no limit. It was not written with the intention of announcing my retirement from no limit poker.

Limit poker is just a much better model for the one long game philosophy. You can literally put your entire bankroll on a limit table and watch it grow. It’s truly one long game and if you are a winning player your stack will get larger over time.

In no limit there are extreme swings. Managing your bankroll is just as important as what cards you play. The term Variance is thrown around loosely in the poker community. Oftentimes it’s an excuse for poor play. But Variance really does exist. And when you play every day for a living, how much money you decide to put down on the no limit table becomes one of your most important and toughest decisions.

How much of your reader bankroll would you feel comfortable putting down on the table at a no limit game?

5%? 10%? 20%?

Lets say you the reader have $2500 that you are willing to lose at poker. Then you could never sit down for $500 at a 2/5 game. Putting down 20% of your bankroll is absurd in terms of risk and reward. Yet lots of us take that chance all the time, because we aren’t relying on our poker income to eat. Most of us have other sources of income that we can use to eat and replenish the poker bankroll for the next trip to the casino.

So if you’re visiting Vegas for the weekend and okay with losing 1000 bucks then it’s safe to put 50% down at a time and potentially lose two $500 buy ins. If you go bust you just head to the bar and joke about the $1000 cocktail that you're holding in your hand.

But when you do this everyday and have to show a consistent profit, you can’t be putting large portions of your bankroll down on anything.

I think alot of people take for granted how hard it is to make a living at poker. I see such horror night after night. No one cares that I had the best of it. I played no limit last night at the Venetian and lost two all ins to flush draws on the river.

Whatcha gonna do?

Hence the limit idea. Limit the damage. While still making money.

If I lose 5 coin races in a row at the no limit table it's a disaster. Yet I can lose 5 coin races in limit and still have a winning session.

Limit poker isn’t good or bad because it’s limit poker. It’s good or bad because of the players at my table. Limit poker also certainly isn’t dead. That's what they play at every level at the Bellagio. And in the Big Game, I've heard they cap betting for hands at $100,000 when they play no limit. So it's not even truly no limit. In other words, they want it to be more about the skill of an entire evening and less about the variance of one big hand.

Translating those numbers down to my level, that would be playing no limit with 4/8 blinds and a cap of 100 bucks per hand. That's a much different game. You're not really going to scare anyone off a hand. If I've raised to 25 with kings and you repop it to 75 I probably can't fold with the 100 cap. If you had another 500 behind at risk it's a different story. But notice how without the no limit aspect the decision is easier. Less power is given to one random hand. Good or bad.

If I was on a long boat to China with Doyle Brunson, and we were going to play until one of us had all the chips, I think he’d be best off playing me limit poker. And beating me over and over again. Making my chips bleed away.

If Doyle and I were playing no limit, I think it would be to my advantage. I could use aggression and luck to have a chance. At no limit I could try my best. I could also take the play away from him and just go all in every hand and force him to race me. Even in the worst case scenario, if I were to run into an overpair I’m only a 4 to 1 dog preflop. Which means that even in my WORST case scenario I still have a 20% chance of beating Doyle heads up. That’s really not so terrible.

Think of it as #9 batter in baseball getting a hit. It happens. It's close to the odds that Vegas gives the Giants of beating the Patriots.

But if Doyle and I were playing limit poker I’d actually have to try and out play him. Over and over again. In small increments. It might take longer for him to win. But I think he'd be a bigger favorite. I'd need to get lucky many times. But at no limit I'd only need to get lucky once.

Maybe what I’ll do is create separate limit and no limit bankrolls and as each bankroll grows, hopefully I can move up to bigger specific games.

I also suggest to try games beyond limit and no limit hold em. Go play Razz. Stud. Omaha. You’ll be amazed how much it'll help your overall poker IQ.

Friday, January 25, 2008

What Is My Limit?

I think I had a bankroll epiphany.

I have a real hard time losing my stack at limit poker.

This makes limit poker safer to play.

Whether I'm ahead or behind is not that crucial.


Because at the end of the hand something mildly good or mildly bad will happen. Nothing pot sized or stack sized like no limit.

Hmmmmm. Less good and less bad. I think we call that less variance.

I often double up at the no limit cash table. But then again I drop full buy ins. There are huge swings both ways. It's scary and dangerous at times.

But not limit. Limit is deceiving. Limit is the sucker game. Mainly because it looks so simple.

And there's that constant stupid debate over which is harder: limit or no limit. I hate this discussion. They're not the same game. You can't compare them.

Each form of hold em is tough in its own way. Limit is certainly safer for the novice. It's not such a big deal to lose 1 big bet on each street. And oftentimes at limit, players will end up getting the proper odds to chase and/or be a calling station. Unlike no limit.

Playing limit is certainly more of a grind for me. Fewer exciting moments. Less to write about. But if it's the way for me to make I am.

I played limit tonight and was shocked by how often the "good" players at the table fired 3 straight bullets with only ace high.

I kept calling them down and winning and getting glares. In fact I misplayed one hand and folded bottom pair on the river because I assumed there was no way it could be good after a bet and a call in front of me. It was.

So my thought here, the challenge if you will, is to play limit, and try to conquer each level. I'm ready to learn. I don't mind stepping down to start.
I'd play 4/8 or 5/10. Makes no difference to me. I know the Bellagio has an 8/16 game that I've never tried.

The goal will be to build up to an appropriate chip stack, so that I can move over to the 15/30 game. Then play 15/30 until I find myself with enough chips for 30/60 table. 50/100. And so on.

Maybe there is a level that I don't beat. A level that I can't get past.

Who knows?

I sure don't. I gotta find out.

Daniel Negreanu wrote that if he had to play 80/160 for a living he'd want to shoot himself because it would be too boring. Negreanu has won millions of dollars, so I suppose that changes his point of view on grinding. I imagine that making $160 an hour is alot of money to most people.

I guess that's one definition of success:

Being to the point where you can complain that you're bored with only making $160 an hour.

At the poker table.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Poker Imitating Life, Imitating Poker, Imitating Life.

Four years ago this month, I was walking home from a doctors appointment. I'm not positive of the exact date. I suppose I could check my medical records and figure it out. What matters mostly is my cell phone rang. I put the phone up to my ear and heard the voice of my friend Jorel telling me all about this internet poker site that he'd recently joined.

Two things jump out at me from this first paragraph.

1- I've spent four years doing this.

2- I take phone calls from Superman's dad.

The poker seeds had actually been planted two months earlier when I read James McManus' book Positively Fifth Street. Like others, I thought to myself, hey I can do this.

"A minute to learn and a lifetime to master."

I went home, signed up and an hour later I was playing Jorel in my first sit and go. My poker era had officially begun.

I had plenty of confidence early on. I realized that alot of the work I had done for the past 10 years had unintentionally prepared me for a career in poker.

And while I was easily able to convince myself that this life experience gave me what I needed to play poker, what hadn't occurred to me was that the lessons I would learn at the poker table would become equally important when applied back to my life.

These new experiences at the poker table would have no choice but to effect my everyday way of thinking.

Poker has really taught me to pick my battles. To let go of things (feelings) and move on. To be a good sport. To accept that sometimes I will be lucky, other times unlucky. To always consider risk and reward before making any decision. Poker has been the absolute greatest reminder to not let things I cannot control in life determine who I am, or how good and happy I feel.

These life lessons have become so interchangeable with poker, that any discussion of their origin can turn a little bit into asking "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

What inspired these thoughts was flipping through "The Week" magazine and seeing their page of quotes compiled from around the world. As I read through them it occurred to me how these words in quotes applied to both life and poker.

If I understand something in life or poker, I can apply it to the other.

A few examples:

"Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out." (Art Linkletter quoted in the Memphis Commercial Appeal)

Not too deep. Simple and true. When life gives you lemons, you gotta make lemonade. At the poker table, things do turn out best for the players who stay on their game. Just because I got unlucky and lost a big pot doesn't mean it has to be a bad day. I can still make the best of my situation. Whether than means showing more patience in a tournament or deciding how long to stay in a cash game. Make the best of it.

"There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare." (Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War).

Sun Tzu is speaking of nations and war. Yet for our purposes he could be talking about playing too many hands. Prolonged warfare is never folding. It's always fighting for chips. And putting yourself into too many hands, against better cards, cannot be beneficial, in the long run.

"Modesty is the only sure bait when you angle for praise." (British statesman Philip Stanhope quoted in the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch)

This quote illustrates why players like Phil Ivey, Allen Cunningham, Ted Forrest, etc. seem great to me. Their play speaks volumes. They don't need to tell everyone how good they are. They're scarier to me than loud talkers because they don't angle for praise. Players (Hellmuth comes to mind) who talk too much automatically seem overrated.

You want people to praise you? Keep your mouth shut. You want people to tear you down? Open it.

So true in life and poker!

"Sex is like money; only too much is enough." (John Updike, London Observer)

Yep and yep.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Common Sense

I haven't felt particularly enthusiastic about going to play poker for the past couple of days.

And wouldn't you know it?

The critical voice inside of my head is trying to spread rumors!

Telling people I'm lazy.

Lucky for me common sense came to my defense.

Common sense said it's great news I stayed out of the casino for a couple of nights and protected my bankroll.

Common sense said there's no need to force action.

Common sense said the game will still be there whenever I'm ready to play again.

Common sense also reminded everyone to vote.

Friday, January 18, 2008

My Hat Went To Oklahoma

11:43 PM. The word on the street is I'm on the list to play 2/5 no limit at the Bellagio.

11:50 PM. 7 minutes later and already I'm giving away money with 5,6 suited. What do you want from me? I'm a NY Giants fan. Something about the 56 makes it so tough to fold.

Playing a hand like this mostly makes me wish I had bought in short. If I only had $200 on the table I may have shoved when I paired on the flop but with 500 at risk it wasn't worth looking up his continuation bet. Pushing all in may not have been positive expected value here but I bet it would have been positive expected fun!

11:56 PM. I've only been at this table for a few minutes but I think I'm in what's known as a good place. There's a guy here who is everything to hope for at a poker table. He singlehandedly makes every hand interesting. He raises and bets at flops without looking at his cards. He's drinking heavy. He's from Oklahoma. He's awesome.

He's not a sucker. He's just a guy who doesn't care if he loses $1500 at poker.
Apparently that's what he's bought in for thus far. And he's telling stories of 5 and 6 figure wins and losses.

Whether or not they're true, he's clearly trying to exude that "the money doesn't matter to me."

To his credit it looks like he's having way more fun than the rest of us. And regardless of whether he wins or loses at this table, he's good for the game.

11:59 PM. Minus 10 with jack 9 suited.

12:19 AM. Hoping. Folding. Waiting.

12:28 AM. I'm the guy who can't get anything going. It's especially painful at this table. Oklahoma even made a comment to me about my lack of action and I told him the truth.

I said "Hey I'm dying to get in there and play some hands with you and the rest of the table but I keep getting 3,9 every time. As soon as I get anything remotely playable I'll be in there with you."

He just called me Brooklyn so we're on good terms.

12:31 PM. Minus 20 with pocket 6's. More bleeding. Oklahoma bets 100 on turn when board pairs. I'm skeptical but he's betting big all the time so I don't feel the urgency to play this specific hand with over cards staring at me. However I am going to have to pick one sooner or later and go with it.

12:44 AM. I finally find my spot. Oklahoma raises to 40 preflop and because it's him he gets 4 of us to call. So there's $200 out there. Thank you sir.

I only have $260 left in front of me so after I connect with the flop I lead out all in. The flop has straight and flush possibilities so my push creates 260 to win 460 odds. That ain't even 2 to 1. If I check the flop and let someone else bet first then my drawing opponents suddenly have improved odds to chase me down. But with 260 to win 460, the flush draw across the table has to fold.

I appreciate not having to hope my hand holds up. Sure greed wonders if I could have won another $260 if we raced. But of course it carried the risk of losing my entire stack and the entire pot. So the push was good. This time. In this spot. Against these particular players. At this moment.

12:52 AM. Minus 25 with AK. It was a multiway pot and this table is so loose, I don't even bother with the continuation bet on the flop. They will call. They will pay you off. You just gotta have something. And I don't. So I don't bet.

And one man truly deserves the credit for this insane action. I forget his name. But his state was Oklahoma. Our table captain. He keeps betting chips before any action happens. Before the dealer even deals he has a stack of chips out there. Sometimes it's 20. Sometimes it's 100. His bet size varies but I've never seen anyone give action like this before.

He tips the dealers when he loses pots. Occasionally says nasty stuff but tips even more when he does that. This creates a funny chemistry where the dealers are almost happy to see him lose. Pavlovian behavior makes them want him to curse at them. Because it will just mean another 10 bucks.

I'm so confused. I never think it's right to abuse dealers but when you watch a man say "You stink and keep giving me lousy cards" and then toss two red chips towards that person, it gets weird.

I'm polite. But this guy is clearly better than me for the dealer's bottom line.

As the evening goes on it's fascinating to watch the different dealers handle him.
He's making really offensive jokes to dealers and then tipping them hard. The more experienced dealers are strict with him and Oklahoma responds. He is well behaved when he needs to be. I find this last part to be somewhat of a relief. It's what makes Oklahoma likable to me.

1:01 AM. I finally take advantage of having Oklahoma to my left. I limp with ace queen and let Oklahoma do his blind raise to 20. Then after 4 players call the 20 in between us, I reraise it to 200.

My raise forced Oklahoma to finally look at his cards and after I survive his random hand, everyone else folds and I picked up 100 bucks.

1:29 AM. Over the past 30 minutes I've given away money with 9,10 suited. King 9 suited. 7,9 suited. Ace suited. Basically I'm trying to find a hand that still looks good post flop. No luck thus far.

1:36 AM. For the second time tonight I've called a flop bet to see what my opponent will do on the turn. And then when my opponent bet again I folded. Both times. This suddenly feels like a leak and will continue to until I hit 2 pair on the turn and take someone's stack. Then it won't feel like a leak. Even though it still will be a leak.

1:55 AM. Oklahoma is all in blind because his wife texted him "Get your ass up to the room."

1:56 AM. Oklahoma triples up with 8,10 off.

1:58 AM. Oklahoma is all in again with 6,7 off vs ace king and rivers a straight.

Of course he does.

2:13 AM. Normally I might feel like I should go but tonight I can't leave till Oklahoma does.

2:20 AM. I hit quad 8's. Strangely, in the middle of the hand Oklahoma asks me if he can wear my hat. Now normally I'd probably say no. Especially if it was my lucky hat. But I did not purchase the hat that I happen to be wearing tonight. It was given to me a few months back. I'm guessing it came from some sort of discount bin. Probably retails for 30 something. But in reality it probably cost like 10 bucks tops.

2:22 AM. Oklahoma offers me 20 bucks for that. I could have played hard ball and gotten 50 out of him. Easily. But I thought it was better for the game to make him happy and give it for 20. Why not keep the good vibe going? The 30 dollars would make little difference. Oklahoma was offering everyone action. The least I could do was let him have a hat that excited him. And he really was proud of it on his head.

Meanwhile I may not be able to win a poker hand. But look at who just made 20 bucks!

2:32 AM. I win another pot doing my hack preflop limp thing behind Oklahoma and the reraising again after he bets 20 blind.

2:39 AM. Here we go again. I limp with ace jack suited and Oklahoma blind raises to 20 behind me. This time I decide to alter my play and just call. We see the flop 4 ways and the board pairs 4s.

Oklahoma reminds everyone that he hasn't looked at his cards yet and says "I might have a 4 so I bet 40."

Good for him right?

There is a Bellagio dealer playing at the table and he is next to act. This dealer player says something about how it's impossible to handle this spot. The dealer player decides that raising is pointless "Since he's just going to call anyway."

But how does he know this?

I think you gotta raise here if you're gonna play the hand. Make Oklahoma look at his cards and make a decision.

But instead the dealer just calls.

This suddenly makes me suspicious that he could have a 4. I fold my ace jack. Yet if the dealer had folded in front of me it's likely I would have raised.

The two players check the turn and the river.

The dealer shows ace 6. He's got ace high.

Oklahoma turns over his random cards for the first time. He has 8,9. We all look back out at the board. There's an 8 out there. Oklahoma takes the pot with a pair of 8's.

2:54 AM. I have one poor hand. And it's over. Perhaps I should celebrate that it took until the early morning of Friday January 18th for me to feel stupid this year.

As for the hand itself, I didn't play it aggressively enough. I flopped the nut flush draw and a dude with top pair bet out. I had Oklahoma behind me so I just smooth called the top pair bet, hoping that Oklahoma might raise behind me. But Oklahoma folded.

My not raising the flop caused 2 problems. It let my opponent put me on a drawing hand. I think that if I raise the flop he folds since his kicker was only 9 high.
And the other benefit of raising the flop is that by waiting till the turn I let him price himself into the pot for the rest of his chips with his turn bet. Thus when my flush didn't come on the river I watched my chips in the middle go across the table.

Obviously I don't mind that the flush didn't come. But I do mind that I didn't put more pressure on my opponent and force him to make a tough decision.

And I think this was the direct result of letting Oklahoma take me off my game. I lost touch with my aggression because on this evening I was so in the habit of letting him do the betting. I basically relinquished my power to raise, knowing it was often going to come from behind me. And on this hand it didn't. And it cost me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Robin Hood of Self Esteem

It ain't exactly stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, but lately I've been standing up to the bullies for the novice players at my tables. And I gotta say I get such a rush from it.

The latest episode: I was playing at Red Rocks yesterday afternoon with 3 players who had never played before. The other 5 players at the table were regulars. It was clear who was taking money from who.

However one of the regulars was an obnoxious woman who kept criticizing other people's play. Even after they said they were new to the game. I found her behavior to be so gross. Not only was she killing the action, she was being a mean person.

Because of my low profile at the table it was inevitable that I would become a target. The most entertaining part for me was that I actually did nothing wrong. I played correct poker. But she thought I was a beginner and that she could bully me. She started with the wrong person.

Our villain was sitting directly to my left. On the particular hand in question, she straddled on my big blind. There were 3 callers in between us and when the action got around to me I was excited to see pocket queens.

Now my old conservative move is to just call here in hopes of trapping someone to win a larger pot. Maybe she'll raise behind me. Maybe no overcards come on the flop.

Yet the more reasonable play here is to raise. Assuming I have the best hand I will either get more money in the middle while I am ahead, or else thin the field. It's win win. And I obviously have a hand that's worth raising. I'm not making a move.

But I mention all this because after I raised the straddle, this woman goes beserk. As if my raise is unheard of. She tells me how bad I play.

Huh? How? What?

For raising her straddle? I didn't suck out on her. Raises are what happens at poker. I've never seen ANYONE called dumb before for raising preflop. Especially when you can't see their cards.

It's so absurd that at first I think she must be kidding. My initial comment to her was a somewhat flirtatious "Someone wanted to see the flop huh?"

But she's not kidding. She actually calls me stupid for winning such a small pot.

"You raise and everyone folds." She says. As if I should be disappointed.

I tell her that I'm happy with the money I just won.

It will mean I can go to Starbucks and be able to afford a Frappucino I tell her.

Again she digs into me. She's really trying to embarrass me.

Now if this was my first time at the poker table I'd probably be sitting there feeling real insecure. She has no idea she's sitting next to someone who does this every day. I know when I play poorly. It happens all the time. But it didn't happen on this hand. So for this woman to have the nerve to attack me was in this spot was comedy gold.

I go the other way it and reinforce everything she's saying.

Our secret formula?

1-She tells me how dumb I am.

2-I say how I'm new to the game and obviously can't play at her advanced level.

Repeat steps 1 and 2.

And as an improviser, I gotta say that I'm giving her great stuff to work with.

"I was never smart at school. I guess it just makes sense I wouldn't be smart at poker."

Or my personal favorite:

"Maybe someday, not definitely, but maybe someday with alot of practice, I can learn to behave just like you do at the poker table."

Some of the old guys who play there everyday are loving it. They get it. And I can see the beginners show a sigh of relief that this woman's anger is now directed at me.

We are Las Vegas' new comedy team.

The whole experience was awkward enough for our dealer to actually tell her to stop criticizing me.

But I wouldn't let it go. I kept egging it on.

And for the next hour I couldn't lose a pot against this woman.

It was awesome. She'd fold whenever I'd reraise her because she didn't want to lose a pot to me. And anytime I actually hit a hand I'd just check and let her bluff to beat me. And then look on in pure joy at her disgust with my slow play.

"How could you not bet your top pair?" she asked after one of the hands.

"I thought for sure you had me beat. I was scared to raise you because you're such a good player."

My poker game might be B+, but my passive aggressive game is A+ all the way.

She eventually asked for a seat change. Good.

Lets send her and her bad attitude to another table.

So that I can play with all the novices in peace.

And try to take their money.

While always treating them with genuine respect and kindness.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Anything But Aces

I played at the Wynn this evening but didn't take any notes. For one night I didn't want to be the guy typing into his specific electronic communication device that he someday hopes to endorse.

Oh sure when some corporate monster picks up this blog and and the phone company sponsors it, well then I'll write at the poker table. All day and all night. Till the cows come home and/or the waitress brings me my tropical drink with an umbrella. But for now we'll just have to rely on my memory.

I doubled up early on, getting all my chips in the middle with ace 10 on an ace, 8, 9 board where I also possessed the nut flush draw. Turns out I needed it. My opponent called with ace queen. We were roughly 50/50 although I don't love his calling off his chips here with just top pair, queen kicker. I could easily have two pair, a set, or dare I even mention ace king?

Then I went card dead. Around 30 minutes later I picked up Aces. I limped, of course, and the guy to my left makes it 15. He has less than 300 in front of him.

I was slightly tempted to get real lazy and just move all in. Kind of like let me just take the 30 bucks out on the table, call it a hand, and move on. And I'll also benefit from the fact that every X hands I'll get lucky enough to be called by someone who just can't let their hand go. That's one way I could have played the hand.

But instead I smooth called. I didn't mind seeing the flop. I wasn't exactly in love with raising to 75 or 100 or 125 and then getting called when I have to play the rest of the hand from out of position.

My smooth call felt even better after I got a look at the scary 9,9,queen flop. If I raise preflop, bet this flop and get raised, I'm in a tough spot. But having not raised preflop, I checked. Preflop raiser bets 25. I call.

Turn is a king. If my opponent has 10,jack, he hit his straight. He seems like a loose player so I actually think 10, jack or even a 9 for trips is possible here.
I check again. He checks behind me.

River is a jack. Tough card for both of us. Gives anyone with a 10 the straight.

So basically I'm losing to any hand holding a 9 or 10. But feel good otherwise.

I have to act first. Alot of times in this spot I'll just check and then call.

And I wish I did that here. But instead I led out (too small) for 30. I really thought I was ahead here and making a small value bet.

He takes a little while to decide and then raises me. Around 100 bucks.

He's too good of a player to raise me with a hand like two pair. Not when I could be value betting my 10. He's either got the straight or it's a complete bluff.

Yet if I don't lead out initially for the 30, I probably call his 60 dollar river bet .

At least I think I do.

But I didn't want to give away 100 bucks. Especially with pocket aces. In a strange way this call is much easier for me to make with a smaller pair. Like if I was holding pocket jacks on the 9,9 queen flop, I may be more suspicious of his bet and reraise to find out where I'm at.

However with the aces I definitely have some sort of phobia. I'm obsessed with not losing big pots with them. And so I probably end up costing myself a bunch of medium pots in reverse.

So I folded the better hand. And he showed the bluff to the table. Nice hand sir.

Yet only losing 70 bucks on it was fine with me. I don't need to spend 100 bucks to guess if I'm right at the end.

That was an interesting move he made on the river. Yes bluffing was the only way for him to win the pot. But personally, I don't believe you have to try and win every pot you play. He's spending 130 bucks to win a pot that only contains 110 bucks. If he folds on the river to my bet he's only lost 40 bucks on the hand.

I guess what I'm saying is he's sure showing alot of faith in my ability to fold here . I may not be good enough to fold trips or even two pair. And I could certainly have had the 10.

Around an hour later this same player is in another hand. Plays it exactly the same way, raising preflop and betting the flop. Once again he checks the turn on a scary paired and straight board and on the river he fires out a huge overbet. Guy calls him and takes down pot. With pocket aces. I can't believe he tried it again. Aren't you supposed to tighten up after you advertise like that? Isn't that why you advertise and say hey I'm loose? So that you can have the best of it later on. Weird play.

I felt so bad for my chips, watching them move around the table. Don't worry. I'll be back for you guys.

So I got outplayed on the pocket aces hand. I blame quotas. I can't be the guy who always calls people down. I gotta fold once or twice a year. For my image.

One other hand that was tough to play was holding 7,8 on a 7,9,10,flop. I called small bet from preflop raiser. 6 comes on turn and he checks behind me. A rag comes on the river and I lead out for half the pot, get called by one guy and then sit back in utter horror as a second guy raises it 3x.

Could he really have 8,jack? I wondered it on the flop but then let go of the idea when he checked the turn. Wouldn't that be too dangerous? Too many other hands like Queen jack, King jack or King queen could out draw you. You'd want to build the pot. You wouldn't check.

So I'm gonna call. I'll feel embarrassed when I lose but I gotta call with the 10 high straight. Amazingly, the player behind me calls too! All 3 of us show down.

Raiser shows same straight as me. We chop.

The real question is: What the hell did the 3rd guy call with?

Monday, January 14, 2008

I Finally Straddled

That's right. Stop the presses. Tonight I straddled at the poker table.

But before I get to the straddling story, I gotta get a pet peeve off my chest. I'm not sure if I've complained about this before, but what's up with poker players who say "I call" or "I fold" but then don't actually move any chips or cards?

Yeah I know their spoken word is binding. Yet this kind of poker player slows down the game and freezes the action until he actually does whatever it was he verbalized he wanted to do.

So why not just do it in the first place? Just fold. Or just call. But don't sit there and announce what you want to do without doing it.

As you may be able to guess, there was one guy tonight at the Bellagio who kept slowing the game down with this style of play.

He sat to my right, and would announce his intention but then always take at least 15 seconds to do it. He drove me nuts and led to an early Robert exit from the Bellagio.

I swung by the Venetian where I needed to cash some sports book tickets.

While there I sat down in a cash game and immediately straddled from under the gun. Mostly because I was impatient to play. As far I can remember, the only time I've chosen to straddle consistently was at cash games in the WSOP where they allowed the Mississippi straddle. A straddle from the button.

Speaking of which, if any poker game allows you to straddle from the button, you must.

Every single time.

It's completely ideal to straddle and increase the pot size whenever you have the best position. But straddling from under the gun makes very little sense to me. It's throwing away 2 big blinds in a hand where you don't have the best position. I can limp and reraise with my aces. I don't need to straddle.

Yet all criticism aside, straddling does tend to stimulate action. So I certainly like human beings who do straddle. But I'm not that guy.

However, like I said, tonight at the Venetian, I felt impatient to start.

So I threw out a straddle.

4 players called my straddle, and when the action got back to me, I looked down at ace king suited.

Wow. Thank you universe.

Thank you for giving me something legitimate the one time I straddle.

I play along with the experience and announce to the table "Well if I'm gonna straddle I guess I gotta raise." And I bump it up to 45.

The folding begins. The dealer says something to me about how they're not going to like me at this table. Apparently there's been alot of limping.

I tell her that she should at least let the players decide they don't like me. This information shouldn't be coming from the dealer. And I'm almost home free. But this young kid on the button is staring me down.

I notice and keep joking along with the dealer. I'm having fun trying to sell the relaxed image. I'm happy if he folds. I'm also really not scared if he calls. I have a very real hand. I'm ready to race.

And then it happens. I see him reach for chips. He raises me. I'm not sure how much but there wasn't more than 200 at risk.

I obviously call and say to no one in particular "Well it's not like I was bluffing."

Flop comes out with 2 of my suit. I got my flush draw.

Turn misses me. River also misses me and my flush but gives me a king.

I show my top pair. Opponent folds.

And just like that I'm batting 1000 at straddling from under the gun.

That's 100% to those of you with calculators.

I may never straddle again.

Just to preserve my perfect record.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Poker and Ego

I played in a poker tournament today at the Venetian and 3 different people at my table claimed to play poker for a living.

Now there's this rumor going around that I play poker a living. And that may or may not be true. But I sure didn't believe these guys did. And for the sake of this entry lets say that I'm wrong.

Lets say these guys really do play poker for a living. What I don't get is why any professional would want to share this information. This isn't some 10k tourney. It's $150 on a weekday at noon.

Saying that they're a pro isn't going to intimidate anyone. If anything it only helps players like me who know that I can steal from them. After all it's these "pros" who are supposed to know how to fold.

To add to the comedy, a few minutes later I fumbled my chips when betting and one of the "pros" made fun of me for obviously being a beginner.

I could have listed my resume. But instead I played along and said in my most sarcastic tone "Yeah I bet so smoothly from all of my years of practice."

I'm happy to be the tourist.

Soon after, during a big hand, one player called time on another. The player who was taking too long said he needed extra time because he's a pro and not some tourist on vacation.

To which the player who called for time responded "I may be dressed like a tourist but I'm not a tourist either."

Wow that made me laugh.

And I may have even made a joke.

But no one heard me.

They were too busy telling each other how they were all professionals.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

This Is How I Think Part II

Some of us wait all year long for this weekend.

I'm not talking about the Porn Awards descending upon Vegas.

No. I'm speaking of the NFL Divisional Playoffs.

Like everyone else, I have my opinion on what could or should happen. In years past I'd usually lean towards the home teams in round 2. They've had a week of rest to heal and prepare for a road weary opponent who has played a tough first round game the week before. This combination of events can often lead to a blowout. And this is why all 4 lines are always larger than they should be.

Green Bay opened at -9 and is now -8 over Seattle. (If this was a regular season game I think the line would be closer to Green Bay -4. )

New England opened at -11 is now -13.5 over Jacksonville. (If this was a regular season game I think the line would be closer to New England -10.)

Indianapolis opened at -9 and is now -8.5 over San Diego. (If this was a regular season game I think the line would be closer to Indy -4.)

Dallas opened at -7.5 and are still -7.5 over New York. (If this was a regular season game I think the line would be closer to Dallas -5.)

So according to my brain each of these lines gives a little extra value to the underdogs. And it makes sense. Because like everyone else, I'd expect the 4 home teams to win. You gotta feel good walking up to the sports book and saying the words Green Bay, New England, Indianapolis or Dallas. They all sound like strong plays.

Using the money lines and my old parlay calculator, I determined the odds of all 4 home teams winning outright to be 1.5 to 1. The casino would only pay out 1.3 to 1 or charge you 1 to 1.7 to do it in reverse. But the fair value is 1.5 to 1.

Now 1.5 to 1 is not even money. It's not a coin flip. It's 3 to 2. Or 60 to 40.

This tells us that mathematically, it is slightly more than likely (60%) that 1 of the home teams loses.

Thus the fun bet becomes...

The sit back and watch the chaos bet is...

The either feel like a genius or really dumb on Monday morning bet has got to be...

Take the 4 underdog money lines!

I ain't saying it's smart. But it sure sounds like fun.

Lets say I were to put 100 dollars on each of the 4 dogs to win outright.

Seattle, Jacksonville and San Diego are all more than 3 to 1 dogs.

If any one of these 3 teams can win this weekend, the entire bet is profitable.

Just 1 of the 3.

If only the Giants win, I'd actually lose 40 bucks on the whole experience since they're only 2.6 to 1 dogs.

Now the real ugly part: The reason we shouldn't do this bet is there's a 40% chance we could lose all 4 games and be stuck 400 dollars.

That isn't pretty.

And when I frame it as "there is only a 60% chance NOT losing 400 dollars" it sounds even scarier.

Greed steps in and tries to point out that if the road teams can win 2 games this weekend, that would give a profit of anywhere from +365 to +690.

But who is gonna explain to greed that the math behind this bet is based on winning 1 game? Winning 2 road games would be above and beyond expectations.

If I did this bet here are the hypothetical scenarios:

40% of the time none of the 4 road teams win and I'm down $400 and preparing a blog about how I should stick to poker.

60% of the time at least one of the 4 road teams win.

If Seattle wins I'm up $5 (and free rolling on the last 3 games).

If Jacksonville wins I'm up $250 (and in utter shock).

If San Diego wins I'm up $40 (and in utter shock).

If Giants win I'm down -$40 (and relieved I didn't lose 400.)

As you can see this isn't such a great payout. Certainly not strong enough to warrant risking $400.

However if I do this bet what greed is really chasing is:

If Seattle and San Diego both win I'm up +445

If Seattle and Jacksonville both win I'm up +665

If Seattle and Giants both win I'm up +365

If San Diego and Jacksonville both win I'm up +690

If San Diego and Giants both win I'm up +400

If Giants and Jacksonville both win I'm up +610

So where does this leave us?

As a poker player and investor I do not I feel comfortable placing this bet because of the 40% chance of losing my entire $400.

As a gambler and in terms of pure entertainment, backing the 4 dog money lines would be by far the most fun way for me to watch these games.

Especially if you're like me and enjoy watching everyone run around the sports book in shock every week saying "I can't believe so and so won."

The other part that makes this bet so tempting is I have enough sports gambling experience to know that if I were to go the other way and do a $400 parlay on all 4 home teams winning, it would completely feel like a sucker bet as I was walking away from the window. One of the dogs would win and ruin it for me.

Betting on each of the 4 home teams to win makes sense game by game. But it's so hard to be right about anything 4 times in a row when you bet. No matter how big of a favorite one team may be. Even a 90% favorite only wins 4 in a row 65% of the time. An 80% favorite only wins 4 in a row 40% of the time. (And ONLY New England is even close to being an 80% favorite to win this weekend.)

So despite my feelings, I have learned to trust the math. And what choice do I have? They've got a few casinos here in Vegas to prove it works.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Risk Assessment

In search of some fresh anti-itch cream, I drove down Maryland Parkway towards Flamingo looking for a drug store. I had to make a left hand turn crossing through a busy intersection. There was one car coming towards me, maybe 30 yards away. I could have made the turn in time.

In rush hour it would be the kind of turn you'd have to make if you ever want to get to where you're going. Yet with mellow traffic conditions and no cars behind this one car coming my way, I waited patiently for him to pass. And then I made my left.

And I had a rush of familiarity. It reminded me of poker.

It made me think of how everything is situational. Sometimes in life the blinds are small and your cards are okay but someone raises you and it's best just to fold and be patient and wait.

And yet other times the blinds are high. You're low in chips and it gets folded around to you. And suddenly that very same hand that you'd fold in level 1 becomes not only playable but absolutely pushable under the circumstances.

Sometimes in life it's worth it to make that risky left turn.

And other times it isn't.

It's all relative.

Vegas Fact #8

Vegas Fact #8
Don't make fun of the Red Fire Ants.

I know they're easy targets. Yes they're poor drivers. Bad at math. Have big noses and can't swim. But let me warn you that your words might just come back to bite you.

The Vegas Year has presented some unexpected obstacles. From bad Feng Shui water leaks to our house getting foreclosed. However the one opponent I did not take seriously were the red ants. My bad.

I'm not exactly certain when they first showed up. Probably sometime right before Christmas. Santa may have brought them. For all I know it was the ant's idea. Like maybe they asked Santa for some cat food for Christmas and so Santa dropped them off in my kitchen. I don't know. Can't we all at least agree that the ants somehow got to my kitchen? Why are you guys being such difficult readers about this?

The worst part of this story is that I had been making fun of these ants to my wife. Mainly because they walked so slowly. They seriously look so lazy and dumb compared to ants I knew growing up.

And I admit I was looking past them. Why wouldn't I? I never got to know these red ants. I only took the time to stereotype them.

So it's been a battle over the past few weeks. A minor war in our kitchen. They've been attacking an area near the cat food. Although for some reason they won't (can't?) go in the bowls. I told you they were dumb and lazy. But anytime cat food falls out of the bowl to the floor the ants are all over it.

And you know I didn't want to bring this part up, but Red Ants also don't test as well on standardized tests as do their black, brown, white and yellow counterparts.

Why can't Red Ants do all the things that black, brown, white and yellow ants can do?

(For what it's worth- It was jokes like this that pissed the ants off).

So when I go to bed the other night I look in the kitchen and see a small piece of dry cat food on the floor. And of course it's covered with lazy red ants. Rather than throw it in the garbage where they'll continue to live and prosper, I take a paper tissue, pick up the piece of food and toss the whole thing in the toilet.

I go to sleep. I wake up in the morning. There's a chill in the air. I immediately put up my brown thermal long sleeved shirt and sweat pants that I was wearing before I went to sleep and go brush my teeth.

As I'm brushing teeth, my chest starts to itch. And my stomach. My legs. And my back too. I'm covered in red ants. Fire ants.

Lazy, stupid fire ants I'll add. They may be little but those guys got them some teeth. Or stingers. But something is clearly making me dance.

Back in August I met with a woman from a television production company to discuss shooting the Vegas Year as a reality TV show. There were one or two good reasons for us to do it. Plenty of bad ones. But I gotta say the whole thing would have been worth it if only I could have the footage of me on this morning, running through the house screaming covered in ants.

Thank God my wife was home.

We stopped counting the bites on me at 17. They're all over.

As I stare at all these red marks it feels sort of insulting. Sort of humiliating. Sort of itchy.

Did I deserve to be bitten? Well, I did get a little cocky with them. I was making a little too much fun of them. Maybe I did go too far.

I certainly expressed some anti-red ant sentiments based on stereotypes without actually taking the time to get to know them, And for that I apologize to the red ant community.

Even if they're a bunch of antennae wearing, red biting, three pairs of legs, cat food stealing, little a-holes.

Monday, January 07, 2008

What happens at the North Valet entrance, stays at the North Valet entrance.

The Bellagio's new club The Bank just opened up and if nothing else it makes waiting for the valet after I've lost money playing poker way more interesting.

Hmmm. What do you think these ladies would do with 8,4 suited in the big blind?

Would they check their option to raise preflop just like I did?

What would these ladies do with their flush against two opponents on a 7,9,10 all hearts flop? How about when a non-heart ace comes on the turn?

Would they call a push with their straight flush redraw? What if they knew they were beat but only had 200 dollars left on the table and there was over 1000 sitting in the middle?

We'll never know what they would do.

I certainly couldn't ask them because at this point they started making out. I didn't take those photos because that would have been rude and not respecting their privacy. And as you know I'm way too classy for that.

To recap the night: I could have stayed at home. But instead I went to the Bellagio and spent $400 on these 3 photos.

Consider them a gift. From me to you.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


After a pretty wild week of starting hole cards, I had an uneventful session tonight with very little opportunity . It fascinates me mathematically to sit through an entire evening without ever holding a single pocket pair. I only held suited connectors once.

Yet this was a good session. I didn't go broke trying to force something to happen. I was content.

My only two attempts in the first hour were twice losing pots with ace 10. You know times are hard when these hands suddenly look like monsters.

In the second hour I finally won my first pot of the night. This got me back up to even. An endorsement for patience if you will.

What felt good about this hand was calling someone down with only ace high because I genuinely thought he missed and was trying to buy the pot. It's so rare that I make that call with ace high.

Yet things went dry again and I bled for another hour. This time I fell down around 50 bucks, where I would hover around for most of the evening and early morning.

Every orbit or two I'd find a hand to raise preflop. Usually when I bet at the flop everyone would fold. That's how I survived.

I took a break and considered going home down 52. Come back and try again tomorrow. But in the previous orbit a loose player had just sat down to my left. He's rarely folds and has made multiple river reraises. I want to give myself a chance to play a pot with him.

On the hand I return I buy the button for 7 bucks and pick up 4 5 suited. Flop is Ace jack 5. We check it around. Turn is a 4. I bet 25 and get called by the guy to my left. He has jack 10. I guess he figures I don't have an ace since I would have bet flop. He gets rewarded for misreading my strength when a 10 comes on the river to give him the better two pair.

I probably should have done my typical weak "check call" here but for some reason I couldn't stop myself from leading out for 30 bucks.

He raises me to 80 and I have to be beat. However this was already the 3rd time he had hung around and made a river reraise, so I was damn curious to take a look at what kinds of cards was he doing this with.

Is he the kind of guy who lets me bet his hands for him? Did he have me beat the whole time or is he a chaser who just got lucky? So I overpaid 50 bucks to get this answer and was happy to see him show the jack 10. This kind of player is much easier for me to make money from than someone who was ahead and letting me bet his hand for him.

This result dropped me to minus 160 on the night and once again I was tempted to leave. I still had 240 on the table and if I lost that (to drop the full 400) I would be mildly disappointed. It would feel like I somehow lost self control and didn't get out of there in time. Whereas a 160 loss seems insignificant in the big picture.

I quickly reviewed my session. Hmmm. I'm certainly playing tight poker. I just got sucked out on. Calling the 50 raise on the river wasn't a good play but as long as I'm not on tilt, lets stay.

I fold 3,8 suited the next hand from the button in an unrairsed pot in an attempt to prove to myself that I'm not on tilt.

The hand after this I pick up 10, jack in the cutoff seat. Tilt or not, I'm seeing this flop for 5 bucks. Loose guy behind me makes it 20. Two people call the 15 more. So do I.

Flop comes 7,10,jack. Two spades. I check to preflop raiser. He bets 30ish. Woman calls behind him. I have 220 in front of me. There's around 140 out there.

I push. What else can I do with my stack size? And as long as no one is sitting on 8,9, I don't mind hearing the words I call.

Loose guy folds and tells me he had 9,10. Woman folds and tells me she had king, queen.

Loose guy asks what I had. I say a jack. He smiles.

This hand got me back up to 355.

A few hands later I raise to 15 and flop top pair. I get called down this same loose player to my left who holds an unpaired ace queen. This time he doesn't hit either on the river and I win a nice sized pot.

This hand put me up 72 dollars on the night and I finally got the hell out of the Bellagio. Grateful to not have had a bad session on a night when neither the cards nor the opportunities were plentiful.

Now that feels lucky.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Flopping Lucky

11:33 PM. Thursday night at the Bellagio. On the first hand I play, 4 players are all in so I guess this is a good table to be seated at.

11:41 PM. Minus 20 with pocket 4's.

11:55 PM. Minus 20 with pocket 5's.

12:02 AM. I reraise from blinds and take down some limpers.

12:18 AM. I gamble and it pays off. This time.

I limp with ace jack suited under the gun. Guy raises in middle position to 20. Two callers in front of me. I call.

A different guy to my left, who had limped initially now pushes all in for 46 more.

Original raiser smooth calls. If he reraises I have to fold. But he only calls.
If his hand was a big pair, he probably would have reraised me. I call too.

Now I'm not sure how fast I play on an ace high flop, but I didn't have to worry about that because this time the universe made things real easy for me with an ace, jack, rag flop. There's a flush draw out there too. With plenty of money in the middle, I lead out by pushing all in. I think at this point I have around 275 left to bet.

Preflop raiser is mulling it over. He probably has ace king or ace queen. He's too good to call here. But he also sees how big the pot is. And what if I'm on a straight or flush draw? No one has seen my cards since I've sat down.

I can see him telling the guy next to him how I must have two pair. Then he does the classic cash game move....he turns over his cards. From across the table I get a peak at his ace queen. He wants to see if that scares me or comforts me to see his hand. I choose to ignore him and stare intensely at the pot. You know, get into that head space of how I might feel if I was bluffing.

Incredibly it works. After a minute or two, he calls.

And the truly amazing part? My hand held up! I'm not even being sarcastic. Just respecting the chaos of mathematics.

It could have been the 3rd time today that I got all in with two pair as an over 80% favorite and lost. But I didn't. Somehow, someway the math evened out.

Just like it's supposed to. In the long run.

Meanwhile, how hard is poker?

This would be the only hand of the night that I would win at showdown.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Can I Win at the Wynn?

I walked 3 miles to the Wynn today.

I wasn't even heading there when I left my house by foot at 2:15 PM, but one thing led to another, and I ended up in their sportsbook at 3 PM.

My wife would be driving by the Strip around 5 PM.

Hmmm...what could a guy like me do in the casino to kill time for 2 hours?

The list for 2/5 was real long but there was a seat open at 1/3. I really hate that Wynn 1/3 game for the simple reason that they play it with 3 dollar chips. So my stacks of 20 are worth 60 and not 100. It genuinely frustrates the auto pilot experience that poker has become for my brain. It finally got to the point today where I just decided to think of each chip as "1" rather than "3". Throwing out 6 chips on the flop seems way more powerful than saying "18 dollars."

One of my more memorable poker sessions from 2007 was in July at the Wynn. I lost back to back $500 buy ins and in both hands I was over 90% favorite to win. It's been that kind of room for me. Yet I'm also feeling real good about my game lately. And if I can't beat the 1/3 NL game at the Wynn, I gotta find something else to do with my time. That's the background info to make the following hand summaries slightly more meaningful.

3:20 PM. I limp with with queen 9 suited. Button makes it 12. Three of us call. Flop comes queen high with a couple of rags. We check. Button bets $9. Sort of small bet. He's either missed with ace king or is just toying with me with his ace queen. The others fold. I call.

Turn is a 9. Also gives a flush draw. I lead out for $15. He reraises me all in.

He has pocket aces and like way too many players with big pairs, he's waited until he only has an 18% chance to win to get all of his chips in the middle.

I call with my 82% favorite. River is an ace.

I double him up.

Sure 4 to 1 loses all the time. But why does it keep happening to me in this room?

I tried to stay positive. I told myself there were clearly two good things about this hand.

1- He didn't have more chips in front of him.

2- I outplayed him. I got him to put all of his chips in there when he was underdog.

I got no time to worry about what happened after that.

3:29 PM. Minus 12. I raise preflop with ace 10 suited and get called by one of those guys who really looks like he doesn't know if he's supposed to reraise. I don't continue bet on a rag flop. He leads for 21 on the turn. I fold. He shows pocket queens.

3:45 PM. Here we go again. Me and the same pocket aces guy are all in for the second time. This time I hit top two pair on a 10,9,2 flop. He bets, I reraise him all in. He calls with Queen jack. I'm a 2 to 1 favorite. A harmless ace comes on the turn.

Coincidentally, this makes me an 82-18 favorite. Just like the first hand against this guy. And just like the first hand, he hits his 18% on the river and I double him up. Again.

What should I do?

Do I get the hell out of here as fast as possible? Do I reach into my pocket and get out more cash? On one hand I'm loving the opportunity at this table. On the other hand, I can't seem to win a big pot at the Wynn. If I stay and lose more I will feel stupid as if I didn't respect the bad luck of this seat I'm in. Yet if I go, I am leaving a table with bad players. Players who I want to keep playing hands against.

I stay.

4:05 PM. The guy who has rivered me twice, just got rivered by a woman and he gets up and leaves. With my chips. I can't decide if this is a good or bad thing. I wanted to win them back. But maybe he has my number.

4:10 PM. Plus 40 with position bet after everyone got scared on flush board.

4:24 PM. Table is weak. I've won 3 pots this orbit with preflop raises followed by continuation bets.

On the 3rd one a player says to the table "Someone please call him."

To which I responded "Yeah. You guys better call me soon because one of these times I'm gonna actually have a real hand."

This caused enough confusion for a player to ask me "What have you been raising with?"

4:27 PM. An entertaining hand for me. I raise preflop with king 10 suited. An English woman calls me in position. Flop comes king jack high. I bet. She calls. Turn is rag. I bet she calls. River is a queen. She grimaces, which would normally terrify me. It just seems like such bad acting. But I take a "chance" and bet again. She folds. I guess she wasn't acting.

4:36 PM. I give away 11 big bets calling an all in with queen 9 suited. I might not normally call this but the first guy was all in. And then 2 others smooth called. I tend to get myself into these hands especially because players seem to get thrown off by the whole dry pot thing. However, unbelievably, my hand doesn't win! What kind of crap is that? That's twice today that queen nine has lost. Not sure that has ever happened before in the history of poker.

4:45 PM. Chips poorly spent. I limp with shady cards and then call reraise because the pot gets too big. Flop misses me.

4:52 PM. I limp with queen jack and flop a straight. There's a bet. I raise and get called. Turn comes and puts double flush draws out there. I bet a pot sized healthy 75 dollars. I'm tired of losing on the river. I got to charge him to get there. He eventually folds but I can see in his eyes that he thinks I'm stealing from him. This moment will become pivotal 10 minutes later.

5:02 PM. My wife calls on the cell. She's pulling up to the Wynn. This will be my final hand. I limp in early position with ace king. I've been raising all session so I figure I'll try to play this one differently. There are 4 callers which isn't ideal but I can also fold post flop. Right? I don't have to lose a big pot even if I flop top pair I can get away. Right?

Flop comes 2,3 king. I bet 20. Guy who I "bullied" ten minutes ago when I held the nut straight calls. Everyone else folds.

Turn is 2. I bet 36. He calls again.

River is a 7.

I still think I have the best hand. I'm not in love with the idea of betting and getting raised all in. I also think that if he's missed his draw he ain't calling a bet. However if I check, I know he's going to bet. He has to. I will have shown weakness.

What I'm hoping for here is: I check, he makes some bet like 60 and I call.

However he goes further with it. He moves all in.


My honest immediate reaction is I gotta fold. I'm not about doubling players up with top pair, top kicker.

I ask for a count. It's 165 more. Not alot of money in the big picture. But plenty at a 1/3 table. To put it another way: it's more money than was presently in the pot.

I want to fold. But I can't seem to muck my cards. It just doesn't make sense to me. The story that I am watching. What hand could he have here?

If he has a 2 then he has me beat. I guess the way that's possible is if he limped preflop with ace 2 suited. What else beats me? He could have something like pocket 7's and he hit a set on the river. Or pocket 3's and flopped a set? No. Not 3's. He wouldn't have shown this much patience.

I think it through and just can't put him on a hand that beats me. Well actually I can. He could have king 3 or king 7 and hit two pair. I guess that's possible. But it just doesn't seem likely enough.

This guy is wearing alot of jewelry. He has a tough guy thing going. I think he's bullying me.

I count out 165 and shove it out there. I could be donating here. But I think he's making a move on me.

Or as Tony Clifton would say "I smell a phony baloney."

When I call my opponent doesn't immediately turn over his cards!!!!

That's good news.

Dealer stares at him and the gentleman finally turns over pocket 5's.

I table my ace king and take down the pot. This hand gets me out of the red and into the black. And maybe I finally cracked my Wynn curse.

But the best part of the session was not going on tilt after losing the two all ins.

One long game.


Short and Sweet

Wednesday January 2nd. My first hour at work in 2008.

10:56 PM. Seated at 2/5 NL. Buy in for 400. I'm digging the 400 buy in lately. It's a 500 max table so 400 still gives me plenty of chips. But somehow saving that 100 bucks makes me feel more comfortable playing faster and potentially losing my whole stack. Kind of like I don't want to be all in preflop with a big pair for $500, but for "only 400" the 20% discount makes the possibility of my getting felted much more bearable.

Opening hand I call a raise to 20 with queen, jack suited but the "Pro" behind me raises to 115. Initial raiser unfortunately folds and so do I.

I'm calling this guy "Pro" because of his persona. I don't recognize him but I know his game. He's the unshaven guy with headphones and a baseball hat. He only raises when he enters pots. He takes the game very seriously. You know. That guy.

11:03 PM. A couple of hands later I pick up pocket queens. There's a few limpers in front of me. I raise it to 30 in position. They all fold, including the "Pro" but he takes much longer to muck. Because he's a "Pro."

11:08 PM. Fun hand for me. "Pro" raises to 20 in early position. Two callers. I call the 15 more from the big blind. Flop comes 9,9,7. Two hearts. "Pro" can't like this flop. Nevertheless he continue bets 60 when it's checked to him. Bad player to my right calls. I call too.

Turn is a small rag diamond. We have two flush draws out there. There's a straight draw out there too. The board is paired. It's a terrifying situation for everyone.

Especially if you raised preflop with a big pair.

If you raised preflop with ace king it's utterly hopeless.

There's $260 in the middle. I have a little over $300 in front of me.

Now if I check, two things can happen. "Pro" will either check behind me. Or he will bet again and become pot committed.

So I decide to take this choice away from him. I push out $300.

What can he do?

If he has pocket 10's or bigger he's not about to call off $300 bucks here. Not when he may need to hit a two outer to win. He's too good to make that call.

My bet sure looks like I don't want to see anyone draw out. I'm already where I need to be.

He takes a minute, acts like it's a tough decision, and then folds. So does the other player.

I was real proud to take down a pot like this without having to showdown. I'm tired of having to show the best cards to win.

None of us knows what was coming on the river. None of us knows who would have had the best hand. But by betting so aggressively here, I took the random math part out of the equation. And what felt so good was the realization that I was playing his hand way more than I was playing my own.

11:13 PM. Two hands later it gets folded around to me on the button. I look down at ace 3 suited. I raise to 15. Small blind folds. "Pro" calls. Flop is 2,3,7. With two of my suit. It's a dream. I quickly continue bet 20. "Pro" calls. And why shouldn't he? Tonight I look like I'm playing fast. Personally I was hoping he raised.

Turn is another 7. Pro takes the betting lead and fires $30 out of position. Sure he could have a 7. He could also have a 2 or 3 and not want to give me any free cards. Yet even if he has a 7 I might still pass him with my flush draw. I call the 30.

A random river appears. I miss my flush. He bets 40. I could be donating. Then again, I'm also sitting here thinking that unless he has the a 7, my ace 3 is probably good. I call.

He shows ace,2 for a pair of 2's. My 3's are indeed good.

11:27 PM. I'm in there with 8,9 suited. Flop comes king, 8, 2. Gets checked around. Another king comes on the turn. I think my 8's are good here. I bet 40 and get called. River fills up a flush. He checks. I check. He sheepishly shows his queen high flush. I guess he was going to check raise me? Well the good news is I probably lost the least $ possible. I put in the 40 when I was ahead on the turn. And didn't put in anymore when I was behind on the river. It's no fun to lose but it's more important for me to focus on what I did, rather than what the cards did.

11:41 PM. I call a raise to 10 with 7,8 suited. Flop is 6,8 king, one of my suit. Preflop raiser bets 20. I call. Two others call behind me. Turn is the the 5 of diamonds. I suddenly have a straight flush draw. Preflop raiser bets 25. I could raise but I call and let the two players behind me put in 25 each. I'm letting 3 to 1 happen. I'm also happy if they raise behind me. Lets get some chips in there. Mainly I'm mixing up my play. As opposed to that earlier hand when I pushed on the turn.

River is a 9. I hit the straight. I lead out with a 75 value bet into the 220 pot. Everyone folds. Initial raiser goes all in. Unless he has 10,7 we're chopping. I call. He shows ace,7.

I probably take down this entire pot for myself if I reraise him on the turn when I was ahead of his ace high with my 8's and was freerolling with my flush draw.

Playing this hand slower illustrates what could be a minor built in contradiction for the one long game philosophy. Part of the reason I played it slower was because I was satisfied to be up some money. I didn't want to give back the profit. And yet one long game also suggests that if it's correct to raise, then I need to raise. And not worry about how much I'm up or down on a particular evening. Play each hand in a vacuum.

But the most important thing I can tell you about this hand isn't whether I should have raised or not. No. The most important thing about this hand was afterwards I tapped the table and told the other gentleman "nice hand."

That's right. I didn't yell at him for staying in there and betting his ace 7 off the whole time. I didn't chastise him for catching up to me.

No. My reaction was the opposite. I complimented him.

And why should I get upset? I was real happy to be sitting next to this gentleman.