Tuesday, April 29, 2008

And Such Small Portions!

This past weekend. I'm sitting backstage at a comedy show waiting to go on. The opening act is a very funny comedian. Yet a member of the audience is giving him a hard time and heckling him.

Why was this audience member heckling this comedian?

Because the comedian onstage was not the headliner!

Typical human behavior. A person comes to see a specific headliner. So why show any patience whatsoever with the opening act? Unfortunately this type of ignorant behavior occurs on all levels of show business.

I recall Steve Martin saying he did the same material when he was an opening act as when he was the headliner. And of course people ignored him and talked through his entire set when he was the opening act. Probably the same people who would later love him as the headliner. It's all in their perception.

But the key piece of information to my story, is that this heckler has never actually seen this headliner perform. So it's not like he's waiting impatiently for Wayne Newton to come on out. He's waiting impatiently for an act he's never seen before. Me.

Yes I'm the person this audience member supposedly wants to see. Yet this audience member couldn't identify me in a police lineup. He doesn't know any of my material. He's never seen my show before. The only thing this gentleman knows is that this opening act is not the comedian he has paid money to see.

If I had snuck out onstage and performed as my own opening act this audience member would have given me a hard time. Because I'd be an opening act. His criticism would have nothing to do with my ability and everything to do with my status.

This kind of shallow greedy behavior has become way too pervasive in our megastore driven society. No one has the time to actually listen to anything new anymore.

It's as if we need Starbucks to tell us what is good art.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Vegas Fact #12

Vegas Fact #12
There are slot machine tournaments and human beings compete in them.

I've seen it with my own two eyes.

And here I thought it was still exciting enough to just play slots. You know. Hit a jackpot and win some money. I didn't realize that slot players have taken their game to the next level. I had no idea just how competitive the whole slots scene has become.

Who knew?

It's not enough to just beat the slot machine anymore. Now you must also defeat all the other slot players in the casino. It's a Schwarzengger film and it's personal.

( "He had to go for a spin.")

What's next? Keno tournaments?

Why not have a scratch off lottery ticket tournament?

Walking by this slot machine tournament felt similar to the first time I heard about Civil War reenactments.

In both cases I was hit with an immediate fascination. People really do that? Wow.

I'll be big enough to say I never took the time to consider what a slot machine tournament might look like. The idea of it seemed boring. How interesting could it be to watch someone press a button?

But now that I've seen one I will admit I was completely wrong. I have seen the light. Slot tournaments are quite the sight to see. I'm a huge fan.

Rows and rows of people speed pressing a button.

Speed is the key. Time is limited. Thus we aren't just watching someone hit a button mindlessly. No sirree. This is someone focused on getting as many spins as possible!

And the only move in any of their arsenals is to press that damn button. As fast as they can. Over and over.

According to Sklansky's Slot Machine Tournament Basic Strategy book there's nothing you ever need to be doing in a slot machine tournament other than pressing the button.

Most players follow his strategy so you can imagine the non-stop action. Everyone pressing as fast as they can with an intensity normally reserved for participating in a speed walking race. (That is a speed walking race with a cash prize.)

Watching these people play slots was kind of like watching a drunk person wait for the elevator. You know they're gonna keep pushing that button. Cause the 'vator ain't here yet.

You think poker tournaments have variance? Try spending a year on the World Slot Tour.

The great ones shine through. The true champions.

The people born to do this.

The gifted ones.

The people who press buttons faster than the rest of us.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hot Grinder On Grinder Action!

Thursday night at the Venetian.

Loose guy raises in early position to $15.

I have $162 in front of me and reraise to $45 from middle position with pocket 10's.

Grinder guy in the blinds takes a little while and then smooth calls my $45.

Early position raiser folds. It wasn't worth it to him to spend 30 bucks to win at least $105 plus whatever amount I continue bet on the flop.


(Yet it was worth it to him initially to spend 15 bucks to win just $3.)

I guess I like to gamble more than he does.

Why does any of this matter? Well because I expected to play this hand against the loose early position raiser. Not the big blind grinder guy. The big blind is a regular at the Venetian.

How regular?

I've seen him every single time I've played there.

If I recognize him, he must recognize me. We're both too good to play many hands against each other. In all my hours at the Venetian I've probably played 2 or 3 pots against this guy. Mostly we're both sitting there looking to get involved with crazy tourists. But now suddenly, we're heads up.

His smooth call here is interesting. I think it freaked out the early position raiser. As if a smooth call must mean that the big blind has aces. Since it seemed like he was begging for action from the early position guy.

I however did not put him on a big pair. I put him on ace king.

I think he wants to see a flop. If no ace or king comes he can fold, and if one comes out he can make a decision.

By smooth calling preflop he's giving himself some room to still fold (preflop) if the early position raiser comes back over the top and I follow by pushing all in.

In other words, this isn't a hand that the big blind wants to push all in with. He wants to see a flop first. He's being careful. At least that's my take.

So when the flop comes out queen,6,3 with two diamonds I still feel pretty good. Sure the overcard wasn't what I was hoping for, but if I put the guy on ace king, I'm still good.

He's too good of a player to have called 45 bucks out of position preflop with ace queen. King queen. Anything with a queen.

He looks at me. I look back. He checks.

I only have 117 bucks left. There's a little over 100 in the middle. I suppose I could have bet 80 or something but with such a small stack remaining, I just threw it all in the middle.

Now keep in mind this is the first hand I've raised preflop in the past 30 minutes.

As far as I'm concerned I have pocket aces.

And I know that he knows that.

Still, he takes a moment and asks for a count.


What could he be calling me with here?

If he has ace king off I'm a 3 to 1 favorite and he's too good a player to call with just overcards.

But call he does.

He tells me he's on a draw.

And for me it's the worst one possible. Ace King of diamonds.

Oh dear.

So my read was sort of right. He did have the Ace King. The problem for me is that combined with his flush draw, he's actually a 54.44 to 45.56% favorite.

This coming on the heels of my being a 53.71 to 45.92% favorite preflop.

Things change quickly around here.

Regardless of what comes out on the turn and river, I think we both did what we had to do. Like if we saw each other's hands on the flop, neither of us would fold.

We're both getting almost 2 to 1 in a hand that in poker speak is basically a coinflip. (If it were an election it would be a huge difference. And in reality it is a huge difference- 54-46% edges are the way they build casinos.)

Yet folding would be incorrect for either of us. Thus all we can both do is get our chips in the middle and have the audacity to hope.

This hand stood out to me because it's not too often you get to see two grinders racing like this.

Yet we both made correct reads.

Well almost.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Opening Hour of April 24th

12:42 AM. I raise preflop with 5,7 suited. Flop comes jack,7,2. I bet 15. A guy who sounds like Gus Hansen calls. Turn is another jack. Gus tells me that if I bet he's going to call. So now I gotta bet. I push out 35 bucks and he folds. Gus shows me a 7 and asks me to show the bluff. I turn over a 7. He nods and says he had kicker problems.

Who doesn't these days?

12:44 AM. The very next hand there's a couple of limpers in front of me. I look down in middle position at pocket queens and raise to 20.

Guy in the blinds with a small stack reraises to 40ish. This is great. If a bunch of them call maybe I can push all in, create some dead money and get heads up against the small stack. He only has like 20 more.

But before I can execute this move, the gentleman sitting under the gun raises.

According to Gus, this under the gun guy has been sleeping at the table.


And Gus keeps making jokes about him.

So now this same guy who was just sleeping, sticks a stack out there. $102 to be exact.


Can I fold my pocket queens?

He plays one hand per hour. Yes. He has to have me beat.

The emotions kick in. Denial, anger, a certain self righteousness. Could be what Dave Matthews has been singing about all these years.

"I had queens when he had aces." That's what I'll tell everyone later on. And this story will only cost me a couple hundred bucks.

Or you know what? Maybe I'll get lucky.

You see it every time. Here comes the suck out.

This style of poker is so popular in fact that some say I have him trapped. Free will is an illusion. My opponent has no choice but to lose his entire stack to me right now, just because he picked up pocket aces at the wrong time. Sources say I've got this guy exactly where I want him.

However, mathematically speaking, it's not looking good. I try for one moment to convince myself that he could have ace king. I'm beating that hand. But that fantasy doesn't last too long.

Meanwhile Gus Hansen just can't keep his mouth shut. As I'm sitting there shuffling chips he tells his neighbor "It's the first hand this guy has played in an hour." It's terrible table etiquette. Gus should keep his mouth shut.

But that's what finalizes it. I cannot go further with this hand. Not with knowledge that the raiser plays one hand per hour. I fold my queens.

(And maybe this is what Gus wanted. Maybe Gus is frustrated with this guy for playing so tight. Maybe Gus doesn't want to see me pay him off. So much goes on at these tables for people emotionally.)

The beauty is I still get to see the hand play out. See if I would have won.

The guy in the blinds has pocket 6's. The gentleman under the gun has pocket kings. Look at him getting frisky and opening up his starting hand selection.

Gus said it had to be aces. What does he know about poker? I mean besides saving me $200.

Flop shows a queen in the window. I hit my set. Wow. But before I can feel sorry for myself I see a king behind that queen. And a jack as well. All clubs. I was not going to win this hand.

I think this is what Hellmuth means when he says he can dodge bullets.

So can I.

With a little help from Gus.

12:53 AM. Gus complains that the table is too tight. I offer to straddle along with him if he'll remind me. He reminds me and so there I am with jack 9 off seeing a flop. If I hadn't straddled I probably would have folded it under the gun. But now, because of Gus, I get to see a Jack, 10, 8 flop.

In Denmark they call that "top pair with an open ended straight draw."

No slow playing. I lead out for 15. Guy raises me to like 60. I come over the top and as soon as he doesn't insta-call I feel really good about this moment in time.

The longer he takes the more I think he's gotta lay it down. But then he calls all in.

Even though you don't gotta show your cards I do. He doesn't.

The universe rewards my openness with a 7 on the turn for the straight.

12:57 AM. Gus straddles for 4 bucks. It gets folded around. I have 3,7 in the small blind. I fold. Big blind folds too. Gus gets a walk on his straddle and wins 3 bucks. Then shows us his 2,3 off. I say "You had me." I mumble something about how his hand was good because "I only had fractions." Gus doesn't laugh but I'm sure this was just an English thing. His non-laughter couldn't have been because my joke sucked.

12:58 AM. Table is shorthanded. Everyone folds to me on the button. I have pocket 5's. Gus is the big blind. He tells me to fold so that he can chop. I tell him I have a real hand and bet 4x the big blind. I need to play a big pot with him at some point tonight. And so I wanna mix it up with him whenever I can in position. He calls my raise without looking at his cards. He also checks the flop in the dark. He asks me if I wanna bet in the dark. I say "No. I'd like to see the flop."

Flop is jack,8,9. I should bet. But I also took that pot from him earlier with the 5,7. He's seems like he could be a good enough player to raise me here to see how much I like my hand on this scary board. He talks alot and has been naming people's hands. He's good but just bored and playing too many pots. I check.

He bets when a 7 comes on the turn. I fold and show him my pocket 5's. My message is I raised preflop because I had to. I had pocket 5's. It wasn't like I was just using my position. I'm also showing him that I didn't continue bet on the flop when my hand might no longer be the best.

I'm showing him a tight aggressive image.

1:09 AM. Next orbit. Same exact situation. It gets folded around to me again on the button. This time I have queen,5 off. How to play this one is a classic "Depends" situation. I raise here because I want to keep this guy off guard. He thinks I'm tight. But at some point he will play back at me. So I need to keep the pressure on him.

He does his routine again and calls blind. Checks in the dark.

Flop is ace, 2,4. I have queen high and a gutshot straight draw. This time I bet the flop and represent the ace. Gus agonizes over my bet and then folds his king, queen suited face up. Chastises himself for not repopping it preflop.

1:15 AM. I raise. Gus calls me in position. Flop comes queen, jack, 6. I check. He checks behind me. 10 comes on the turn. I bet 15. Gus folds and tells me my ace king is good. I wanna ask him why he didn't bet the flop and take it away if he can put me on ace king. But I keep my mouth shut and don't show my cards. Gus tells me I never show. I tell him I've showed him a few. Which is true. Usually I show none.

1:22 AM. I limp with jack 9 from the cutoff. I've raised the last few times in position so perhaps this adds some sort of variety to my game. At least I know Gus is paying attention. Maybe this will look to him like I'm slowplaying a monster. The button sitting in between Gus and I raises to 12. Gus calls from small blind. I call from cutoff. Flop is ace, 9, 4. Gus acts first and checks. Sure I have a piece, but more importantly, what did the button raise with preflop? If it's a hand that does not contain an ace, how can he call if I bet?

So I use my position and fire out 20 bucks. If I get called I'm done with the hand. And maybe I'll get lucky and hit trips or two pair on the turn.

One thing is for sure. The button is tight. He can't call this bet without an ace. If he had something like pocket 10's preflop then now he will fold.

I was right. He folds. I get excited.

And then remember that Gus is still in the hand. Damn.

Forgot about him. If he raises me I've probably gotta fold. I feel vulnerable. Gus talks for a little bit. I look at him occasionally but say nothing. Gus folds. My image is gold here. I'm playing somewhat loose but still pegged by Gus as tight.

I can't wait till someday when people think I'm a loose player so that I can go back to just playing tight again.

Way better for my blood pressure.

1:39 AM I raise to 12 preflop with ace king and get two callers. A tight player and Gus. I put the tight player on a medium to small pocket pair. Gus? I have no idea what he has. Flop comes king,10, 8 and tight guy leads out for 20. I just wanna get rid of Gus here. He has position on me. So I miniraise to 40. Gus folds. This bet hides whether I'm already there or on a draw. If I get reraised then maybe he flopped a set. Tight guy just calls.

Turn is a 5. Tight guy checks.

I try to rationalize the check. If I check here I can just call him down on the river.

But the problem is that I'm probably ahead. He's probably on a draw or got a weaker king. Either way I can't let him see the river and potentially out draw me for free. I have to bet this hand right now. Later on I can check the river if I'm still feeling scared.

So I bet 50. I thought it was a pretty small underbet and would definitely get called. Especially after he put in 40 on the flop. But he must have assumed it was a pure value bet and that I was slow playing a monster because he quickly folded.

After which Gus looks over at me and asks if I had ace king.

I told you he was good.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Live Poker Coverage

I played two live poker sessions at the Venetian.

Here's the final 62 minutes of the second session.

12:51 AM. I limp under the gun with ace jack suited. No one raises and we see an ace high flop with one of my suit. Conservative looking gentleman bets 10. I call. Everyone else folds. Same gentleman bets 20 on a second suited but otherwise harmless looking turn. I raise to 60. Happy to take it down. Mostly trying to find out where I'm at.

From the looks of this guy I'm waiting for his reraise. But he doesn't. He just calls. Huh. I thought he'd raise or fold. What hand calls?

A weak ace? A runner draw?

He didn't raise preflop so I think my ace has the best kicker unless he has two pair.

But I'm sort of lost in the hand. I comfort myself by thinking of my raise to 60 on the turn as potentially also being my river bet.

Like if I had called the 20 on the turn, it would have been reasonable for either of us to bet 40 more on the end.

Only I'm doing it on the turn when he still might be drawing.

Someday when I'm good at poker I'll value bet another 75 bucks on the end.
Like Phil Ivey.

But for tonight, against a player I have no read on, I checked it down, showed my cards and watched the dealer push me the pot.

12:58 AM. Ace 8 suited. I flop an ace and bet 10. One caller. Turn gives a 3 card flush, but not my suit. I check and the somewhat aggressive player checks behind me. I'm real suspicious of this check. This guy had been betting most of the time. Taking shots at pots. Like it almost seems more likely for him to bet when he doesn't have it, than when he does.

What's so interesting to me here is that if he bets this turn I don't believe him and probably call. Yet his checking it terrifies me.

So I check again on the river and this time he bets 50 into a 25 pot. Easy fold. I don't mind being bluffed out of such a small pot. But I don't think he was bluffing.

1:05 AM. I call from the blinds with queen 9 off and lead out for 10 bucks on a 9,8,2 flop. Two players call. Turn is a 10. In 2004 I'd have checked and called. In 2008 I bet 20 dollars. Both players call me again.

River is a jack. I have a straight. I bet 40. One guy folds. One calls.

A somewhat decent example of aggression confusing and disguising my showdown hand. The bets on the flop and turn made it impossible to know where I was at.

Was I semi-bluffing a straight draw when I bet on the flop?

Or did I connect with it and pair up?

This is huge because if I initially connected on the flop (which my bet certainly represented) then I might not have the straight by the end. Which is why I think I still was called on the river. Because of the flop and turn bets. A dude with the bottom end of the straight or two pair can't exactly lay down there.

Yet if I had played the flop and turn more passively and waited till the end to bet, it's way less likely that anyone calls.

1:17 AM I overbet preflop and raise to 20 with king queen suited. I think I genuinely forgot that I was sitting at 1/2 and was in habit from 2/5. Who knows?

I can't say I was in love with this situation when I actually got called by another conservative player. What hand could he call a 20 dollar bet with preflop?

Things looked slightly better when the flop came queen high.

I under bet 22 bucks. Opponent calls. I hope he doesn't have ace queen.

Turn was a damn pretty card. A second heart giving me a flush draw along with my top pair. He checks to me. So many options. I can bet again. Small or big bets both make some sense here. I could also check behind him, show some weakness and hope he leads out with a bet on the river. But that's old school Robert. New school Robert wants to bet as often as he can to create confusion.

I push out a $45 bet into the 70 something dollar pot. Lets find out if he has ace queen. He folds and I immediately wished I bet less. Or checked.

Then again maybe he wasn't putting another cent into the pot. And of course if I get outdrawn then I'm on here writing about how poorly I play.

1:26 AM. I'm proud of this hand. Six limpers. I'm on the button. I look down at two crap cards and fold. It's so easy to call and hope to get lucky. But calling felt horrible. Weak. Dirty. Shameful. I almost raised to take advantage of my position but that also seemed unnecessary. Forcing the action. Rather than letting the good situations come to me. So I folded. And it felt great.

1:38 AM. I raise preflop with jack 9 suited and get 4 callers. So far so good. But then the big blind pushes all in for 70 bucks. I'd love to call. Some nights I talk myself into gambling, but unfortunately I can't call here with 4 people to act behind me. If I knew NONE of them was going to reraise then I might. But I'm not crazy enough to stick 70 bucks out there when I'll have to fold to a reraise behind me.

1:44 AM. Two limpers, then an aggressive guy in middle position raises to 15. I call with 5,8 suited on the button which I'm hoping will entice the others to call. Two of them do and four of us see an 8 high flop. Preflop raiser bets $20. It's tempting to raise him here. He's probably got two big cards. I'm probably ahead. Then again even aggressive players get real hands sometimes. I use my position and smooth call. The two players fold behind me. Lets see how he bets the turn.

Turn is a beautiful card. A second small spade. I still have my top pair but now I've also got a flush draw going.

If he checks I can't wait to bet.

If he bets I can't wait to raise.

But then he does something I wasn't counting on. He acts first and goes all in.

Damn. So much for my raise.


I hate calling all ins, much less with 5,8 for top pair, 5 kicker.

There's a good chance I'm about to give this man a couple of hundred bucks. Everything he has done has screamed big pair. But he's staring me down. He's acting too strong. If he was a tighter player I might still fold. But his loose aggressive style has hooked me in. I think he has ace king. If he's got a real hand, he deserves my money.

I call. I'm trusting my read and if I'm wrong and he does have that big pair, at least I've got some flush outs on the end.

The river comes. It's red. I miss my flush. The only good news is it's small.

I'm waiting to see his hand and then he says the magic words.

"You got me."

I show my 5,8.

He mucks and says he had king queen of spades for the bigger flush draw.


I guess I got lucky, not to get lucky, and hit my draw.

1:53 AM. I fold ten, jack to a 15 dollar preflop raise and then watch the dealer turn over a king, queen, 9 flop. Betting ensues. Chips fly. Two players go all in.

By showdown my folded hand was still the best.

Usually I am able to laugh it off but tonight it put me on tilt. Pissed me off.

Not playing that hand made me feel like I lost money. Even though I know I made the correct long term decision.

And so I did the one thing I do best at poker.

I left the table.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I Challenge Doyle to Play Me Atari 2600 Football

Since Patrik is into making challenges, here is one for him. I read where he has taken up golf. So, I challenge him to play for $100,000 a hole at Bali Hai Golf Club, any time from now until the end of August. Surely a twenty-seven-year-old ex-professional tennis player from Finland can beat a seventy-four-year-old guy with an artificial shoulder and who has to use a crutch to walk. What do you say, Patrik? -
-Doyle Brunson

I would like Doyle to know that I accept his challenge (not that I had much of a choice, I would be the laughing stock of the poker world if I backed down from this challenge) and if I have until August to practice and improve, hopefully I can make a big dent in Todd's inheritance. Seeing Todd cringe when I win millions is going to be worth just as much as the money.
-Patrik Antonius

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Breakfast Of Champions

My wife and I went late night to one of those 24 hour restaurants that you find off the strip. The kind that's always serving breakfast. With video poker machines by the entrance.

Hey you know what disappoints me about this blog?

Not nearly enough video poker machine stories!

I want to read about the Vegas guy who takes out a 20 bill to play some video poker while he and his wife wait to be seated at the diner.

Tell me that he hits quads to go up 3 bills right as the hostess seats his wife.

Even if it's a lie. Tell me anyway. Tell me how he loses it back and has to sneak in another 20 while his wife orders the meal without him.

Heck it might even be the third or fourth 20 by the time the food comes out but he can't leave the machine now! Not now! Now he's on fire! Just hit a straight flush to go up 600!

Tell me how he misses the entire meal, but still sits up 400 bucks while his wife waits in the car in the parking lot.

Tell me how he takes her home immediately after losing the rest of the money back.

And then after he drops her off he goes back to the restaurant with a fresh 20.

Where's this guy's blog?

Shouldn't this be the kind of story you find in The Vegas Year?

Who the hell wants to read about me folding?

My whole video poker machine fantasy from above was rudely interrupted by my having to make a decision between Mexican and Gambling themed breakfast options that existed on the menu.

At least that's what the woman standing in front of me with a pad wanted to know.

Hmmm. What am I in the mood for?

Can you recommend the "Montezuma's Revenge?"

What's exactly in your "Eggs on Tilt?"

You don't know for sure?

Hmmm. Will you show me if I fold?

They had something called the "Slot Machine." One of the safer items appeared to be the "Dealers Choice."

There are definitely fewer decisions to make preflop at video poker than eating at this restaurant.

After she took our order the waitress complained to us about the chef yelling in the kitchen. Chef may be a little too kind. Cook might be a slightly more appropriate word to describe the man.

She walked away. Then 30 minutes passed. If we were at a poker table a new dealer would have sat down.

The restaurant was mostly empty but in these establishments it always takes longer to get food when they're slow. Like everyone stops working and it's impossible to get any order out of the kitchen.

My wife and I were fine with the wait. We were deep in conversation.

But our waitress was not okay.

She comes over to the table and asks us if it seems like it's taking a long time.

I shrug my shoulders. I'm hungry but I'm not going to stress out about it.

We sit there in silence. She tries again.

"Don't you think it's taking a long time for your food to come out?"

I'm tempted to ask to speak to the manager, just so he can come over and I can tell him how dissatisfied our waitress is with the meal thus far. "She thinks it's taking too long."

When our food finally came out our waitress said it looked pretty good. She said it was much better than expected. I was relieved to hear she liked it. I was scared she might complain and ask to send it back to the kitchen.

We finished the meal and she brought the check. When I turned it over to see the damage, she looked at it along with me from over my shoulder.

I could feel her presence behind me. So I turned and slowly looked up at her.

She looks me right in the eye. She points towards the check and says "It seems like alot."

My bill. From her restaurant. And she's telling me it seems expensive.

Then I remembered how long the food took to come and thought maybe I should apologize to her for having made such a poor choice in deciding where to eat this evening.

I don't think our waitress liked this restaurant at all!

I don't think she'd ever want to go there to eat.

Unless it turns out that she's into video poker.

Then it might work out perfectly.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Avez-Vous Un Occupation?

Previously I've mentioned spending some time in France and how I really enjoyed that no one ever seemed to ask me what I did for a living. The very same question that always manages to come up within the first 5 minutes of meeting someone new in America.

It's as if we need to know your occupation in order to size you up correctly.

What are you? A lawyer? An artist?

Lemme know so I can judge.

But in France I really dug having the chance to get to know the person first. I'd eventually find out what they did and often I was surprised. Mainly because I'd gotten to know the person, rather than the stereotype.

Now close your eyes.

Well not literally. But read the next sentence in the voice of someone who is critical of poker.

"All he does is sit around and play poker all day."

To the non-poker playing human being, the above comment probably paints the "he" as lazy. And why not?

That's "All he does."

Just sits around and plays poker.

All day too!

Yet if someone accused me of such behavior it would be a compliment. It would mean that I was hard at work.

Poker has no set schedule. The game is always going. It's waiting for me when I'm ready. The problem with playing poker for a living is I don't earn when I'm not there. There's no passive income.

This "hand to mouth income stream" presents ample opportunity to feel bad about myself when I'm not working. That's been a common theme for me this year.

I like playing poker. I don't love it. Maybe I'd love poker more if I had another source of income. So that it could become a game to me again. But for now poker is still work. That's the truth.

Recently I've become involved with some non-poker opportunities away from the table. Even though these activities have $ potential, my participating in them sometimes makes me feel irresponsible for not playing enough poker. In other words, for not working enough. Even though I'm aware that I'm giving other sources of income the chance to happen.

So it struck me as damn funny last night when I realized that I was feeling bad about myself for not having played more poker this weekend!

What a genius internal flip this is!

Step back for a second and forget that I do this for living.

Leave the context behind and just zoom in on me feeling sitting here feeling sorry for myself because I didn't play enough poker!

Now that's funny!

Very funny.

If you told me twenty years ago that there'd be a moment in my life (specifically April 2008) when I'd feel bad about myself because I hadn't played enough poker during a weekend...I'd have been real amused! I'd definitely feel confused. Some might even call me bemused. (At the very least, I'm some word that ends with "used")

We moved to Vegas to give me the chance to play poker live everyday. If I never tried it, I always would have wondered how easy or hard it was to make a living at the tables. Now I know.

I know how hard it is to win consistently. Especially when you have to.

I know how hard it is to get myself to the table every day. To play regularly and more importantly, to play well each and every time. It's not good enough to play solid poker for 6 days if on day 7 I give it all back.

I know what it feels like to sit around unhappy angry aggressive human beings for hours without end.

The poker job description I'm sharing here is completely doable.

Of course it's possible to make a living doing this.

But don't kid yourself.

It's work.

To people who don't understand poker, my keeping away from the casino this weekend could have looked like I was finally getting my act together. You know. Working on real work.

To those who understand the business of poker, grasp the money that can be made sitting at these tables, to them, I'm not working nearly hard enough.

I can't please everyone. That's for sure.

But for now I'd like to start with the critical voice inside my head. All that guy does is second guess and act like he's so smart. A real know it all.

I wonder what the hell he does for a living?

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

So either you're improving and mixing up your game as a poker player.

Or you're going insane.

Speaking of insanity, I should mention that I have plumbing issues and discovered a water leak in our home. Just like last year.

Now sure I could freak myself out with all the Feng Shui stuff. How leaks mean I'm losing money. But the big difference this time around is my landlord pays our water bill. So as far as I'm concerned, I'm grandfather claused in terms of all the related negatives associated with having a leak.

Whew. Thank God I'm sane.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me

I'm going to make a brief statement. The rumors are true. The past 3 sessions I've raised 25% of my hands. No not the hands I play - I'm raising 25% of the hands I see. I can't stop. I'm addicted. No more limping. It feels wrong to call. If I'm going to get involved with a hand, I'm going to raise. It's what I know to be true. It's what happens after 16 months of living in Vegas.

Now can you see why this whole Vegas Year was supposed to end after 12 months? I was never supposed to get to month 16 when my brain finally let my body do what it knows is right. This could be dangerous.

Sunday we went to see a pretty amazing youth production of The Who's Tommy at the Topanga Community House directed by The Finger. Afterwards as I sped up the 15 back towards Vegas something clicked and I had a mental breakthrough.

Now please keep in mind there are weeks, even months where I'm walking around this city feeling mediocre about my poker game. Wondering what I'm doing with my life.

But every once in awhile, completely out of my control, a concept will come together in my mind and provide me with a renewed passion for the game. This was one of those moments. I'm so excited to play poker again.

What did I finally understand?

I'm capable of controlling a poker table with my aggression. I am. And it's so absurd because I still see myself as the tight novice. But somewhere along the way I've developed a pretty good feel for where I stand post flop. So it's actually become to my advantage to raise and get more money in the middle preflop, so that I can rely on my making better decisions than my opponents do post flop.

That's my edge.

Switching to a more aggressive style has been real challenging. There have been many nights where I've lost a buy in or two playing too aggressively and then thought maybe I've made a big mistake trying to open up my game. Maybe tight has to be right.

But then I'd also sit at tables and watch how the big winners used a loose aggressive style to snowball themselves into monster stacks. I studied who did it right and who had no clue. I learned to identify the players you didn't want to get involved with because they clearly knew where they stood post flop much better than you did. These were the same players who didn't need to go to showdown to win pots and make money.

This is who I've been working hard to become. And something feels different this week. It's kind of like hitting puberty. One day you can't, and then all of a sudden you wake up one day and you can.

I'm hoping I finally broke through the mirror like Tommy.

It's always two steps forward, one step backward with this poker stuff.

There were years I didn't play 25% of my hands.

Now I'm raising 25% and thinking I might be onto something.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Trapping The Trappers

"Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful."
-Warren Buffet

We went away for the weekend, then drove 5 hours back to Vegas last night. Upon our 10 PM arrival I made the absurd choice to play poker for 3.5 hours. I sold it to myself as a great test of discipline and focus, but quickly realized that I didn't have too much of the discipline part.

Yep. That's me limping in on every hand. Real hard to win money that way. So I decided to give myself a chance. I told myself that I could still play every hand, but if I was going to be involved, I was going to raise.

This immediately turned me into the most dangerous player at the table. I was the guy playing any two cards and betting at every flop. The guy giving action. The guy you'd normally want at your table. But not for this group of fearful opponents. They played scared poker and wouldn't bet back at me without holding the nuts. And truth be told, I was stealing enough of these pots that I really didn't mind taking the worst of it when players did find the courage to stick around.

One surprising discovery was that playing this loose actually took the pressure off. You'd think it would be more nerve racking to raise all the time. Yet if I'm only playing a few hands an hour, I really better have the best of it preflop. I really better not lose a big pot with moderate holdings. But when I'm playing too many hands, I expect to lose plenty of them. So the art isn't my winning every pot. It's about winning the big ones.

The hardest part I'm having with employing a loose aggressive style is having to reveal my cards at the end. Part of me still feels embarrassed to see the other player's reactions. Even though (logically) I know it's great business for me when people gasp at my cards at showdown. Even though the comedian in me wants to enjoy the comedy of it.

"He called a raise preflop with that hand?"

But in fairness to me, if I'm going to play crap hands all night, at some point they will hit. I'm the guy at the table giving action. And everyone loves me until I out flop them. Then we'll have some guy with aces who needs to know how in the world I could have played 10,5 suited.

Uh...because I'm playing any two cards?

Another thing regarding my raising too many hands: Most of the time no one else at the table bothered to raise. It felt like I took the life out of them. From their point of view, there was no need to raise. If they picked up a good hand they knew I'd usually raise it up for them.

I did pick up pocket aces at one point and the way life works, there was a raise and a reraise in front of me.

There hadn't been anyone else raising and now we have two raises in a hand where I have aces?????

How can this be?

And my reputation was so good and loose that when I put in a 3rd raise here, both guys still called me!

If Tight Robert makes this raise and goes all in, player 1 (pocket jacks) or player 2 (ace king) might fold. What else could my raise mean? I'm pushing all in despite 2 players showing strength in front of me. I have to have a big pair.

But neither of these players were going to fold a real hand to Maniac Robert.

The flop?

King, king, jack.

Oh dear.

If I had won this pot my stack would have snowballed. Luckily for me I had them both covered and didn't lose all of my chips. (I also swallowed my pride and protected my image by NOT showing my aces once I saw I was beat at showdown. Why let them think I ever get a real hand?)

I'm a trapper. I know how trappers think. I've spent my entire poker career trapping guys who play too loose aggressive.

I've been at the poker table plenty of times before where a maniac took me off my game.

Last night I was finally the maniac.

Now I must learn to be okay with that image.

To be okay with people calling me names.

I must learn to sit back and genuinely enjoy the show.

Friday, April 04, 2008

No Use In Getting Upset

"I don't get upset over things I can't control, because if I can't control them there's no use getting upset. And I don't get upset over the things I can control, because if I can control them there's no use in getting upset."
-Mickey Rivers

Ain't No Sense Worrying

"Ain't no sense worrying: If you have no control over something, ain't no sense worrying about it -you have no control over it anyway. If you do have control, why worry? So either way, there ain't no sense worrying."
-Mickey Rivers

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Vegas Fact #11

Vegas Fact #11
The birds living up in the tree in my backyard chirp for 24 hours a day.

This seems wrong. I grew up in the city. Uh...is this how nature's supposed to work? I'm not sure when they started singing 24/7. I don't recall them chirping last November when we moved in. But at some point this bird jam began and it just won't stop.

I don't think any song has gone on for this long since Phish played Tweezer at the 1995 Brigadoon Music Festival. Damn that Scottish Village. Always appearing for one day every hundred years.

If you've never been to Brigadoon let me be the one to tell you that their poker tournaments are complete nightmares. Stay away. They take a lifetime to finish. Seriously. You'll understand what I'm talking about the first time you find yourself waiting 100 years for the blinds to go up. It'll drive you crazy. Kind of like if birds were chirping all the time.

Hey shouldn't these birds occasionally take a break? Maybe get their bird beaks some bird sleep? That's what I would have thought. They've been working hard all day. Yet when the sun goes down their philharmonic symphony just goes on and on and on and doesn't stop at the break of dawn. Nor dusk for that matter.

Hey look outside. I can see the moon. I'm thinking about getting some dinner.

What's that I hear? Oh that's the pretty sound of birds chirping.

Now it's 11:30pm. Maybe I'm going out to play poker. Maybe I'm watching Colbert or Sportscenter. Who knows? It doesn't matter to the birds.

Chirp, chirp, chirp.

Oh look. Now it's 3am. I'm doing whatever it is I do at 3am. And so are the birds. Still chirping away.

If I get up to use the bathroom at 6am, they're still there.

Chirp, chirp, chirp.

I wake up to start my day. The whole thing repeats. Again.

Chirp, chirp, chirp.

Their consistency is so intense, my cats have become numb to the chatter. Oh sure the first few weeks they were losing their minds. Pacing back and forth, staring up at the trees. Looking up at me to see what I could do to help. But now they've learned to block out the sound. Pavlov would be proud.

Perhaps it's perfect for Vegas to have birds singing all time. Completely appropriate for a 24 hour city that just like these birds, never sleeps.

You know how it's hard to tell what time it is inside a casino? Well it's just as hard to tell what time it is if you sit in my house, close your eyes and listen to the birds.

All you'll know is it sure seems like a good time be awake.

Speaking of being awake, here's the entrance to the Hilton Theater at 8:40 AM on the opening Thursday of March Madness.

They had $1 hot dogs. $1 beers. 5 big screens. And no birds.

What more could a human being ask for?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Cut My Finger And Yeah I Like Barry

I cut the ring finger on my right hand. Happened just moments ago and makes typing a little more difficult. Two people are concerned right now:

Vegas and my Grandmother.

Vegas wants to know because I opened up as an 11 point favorite in a writing competition against a guy with no thumbs. The no thumbs part gives me a huge edge as it takes him an obscene amount of time to hit the space bar. Don't laugh - those spaces between the words add up. Just like a rake. And of course Vegas immediately heard about my cut and dropped the line all the way down to 7.5 points!

What's up with that?

Look people. I'm gonna cover. It's the desert. It's dry. The cut will heal.

My grandmother is the other entity concerned with my bleeding but Grandma you need to understand that if I was cut real bad then I'd be going to the hospital. But I'm not. In fact, it's mild enough that I'm openly mocking this cut. Just like the red ants. (If I did blog tags or whatever those things are called I think we'd file this entry under hubris.)

Reader do yourself a favor and understand that this no thumbs guy is NOT the world's fastest thinker. He's not the world's fastest typer. Save yourself some money and do not take the 7.5 points.

I'm a lock to beat this guy. If you still feel the urge to bet against me typing against someone with no thumbs, I'd seriously recommend that you bet the moneyline rather than the points, because this match will not be close. If I win I will cover. It would take a blackout for me to lose. I mean it. If for any reason at all he does keep it close, it absolutely means something went wrong. Security has been compromised. Abort the mission.


So I was flipping through the cable television when I came across coverage of the 2007 WSOP Horse tourney. I can't remember what game they were playing. Probably seven card stud. All I know is when I started viewing there were 3 players still in the hand and 1 of them was all in.

On one of the streets Barry Greenstein makes a bet with his incomplete hand. This bet gets the 3rd player involved to fold a hand that was better than Barry's.

When the cards were revealed there was a comment regarding Barry's bet. As if maybe he shouldn't have bet with nothing into a dry pot with a 3rd player all in.

To my surprise, Greenstein actually responded. Part of me was disappointed. It's Barry Freaking Greenstein. He's a master at this stuff. If he's made a bet on a street I'm sure there's a good reason. Sure I want to learn, but Barry doesn't need to explain to me. I already believe there's method to his madness.

Barry told the table how if he hadn't bet then he'd be showing he had nothing and this might allow his opponent to bet him off the hand on the next street.

One of the other players mildly chastised him. Not for the move but for explaining it and teaching the table.

I share this moment not so much to discuss the actual strategy of play but because I thought to myself how in most of the tournaments I've played in, there would have been someone at the table calling Greenstein a donk for betting into a dry pot.

But here I finally I get to watch a pro deal with the kind of situation I live with all the time: Hearing someone criticize your play. Of course you have a reason for whatever you did but your opponent just doesn't get it. Unlike Barry I often keep my mouth shut in these spots. Or at least feign ignorance. Truth be told, I thought Barry would as well.

Hey I'm a huge Barry fan. I love his book Ace on The River. I really like the way he conducts himself at the table. Barry does an audio blog these days. Listening to a recent entry I heard something real valuable. I heard Barry say that he needs money. Something about "Several mortgages and causes."

How about that?

Barry still needs money.

Just like me.

Part of me assumes that these pros have all the money they could ever want and that they don't ever need to make more money.

On some level it's real good for me to hear that they're still out there working too.