Friday, October 02, 2009

One Lottery Ticket Please Part VI

The prerequisite reading:

part I part II part III part IV part V

And now presented without further commercial interruption: the final installment of my award winning recap of playing in World Series of Poker Event #51.


9:30 PM. I finish level 7 with 6650 chips. 780 players remain. Blinds are at 300/600/75. That's 1650 an orbit. Some nights I might be worried to have so few chips, yet here I feel strangely comfortable. Dare I say healthy? Wealthy? Wise?

Well at least wealthy and wise. I'm not too sure about my health. I'm feeling a sharp pain in my lower back. Am I having internal organ issues or have I just been sitting for too much of the past 24 hours? In these situations you should always ask yourself "What would Eskimo Clark do?"

9:43 PM. I fold the unbeatable king queen from under the gun with 6125 chips. That's how much of a slave to instinct I am. Oh sure she's pretty, but I'm just not feeling it from first position. I know that king queen is strongest hand preflop in poker. It's a monster. Even Rex Reed loves it. But I can't follow through at this moment.

And if you really want to debate this what are my options?

I push all in and hope (pray) that no one wakes up with a hand? I don't like that choice. If I'm gonna make that move I don't need king queen to do it. I can push all in under the gun any time I want with any two cards.

I mini-raise to 1200 and pretend I have aces. This I sort of like because who doesn't like having aces? The fantasy is fun. But the problem is if I get raised I'm pot committed and definitely trailing whatever hand has raised me. Why voluntarily choose to take the worst of it?

I go out of too many tournaments making moves from under the gun. I plan at some point tonight to pick up a real hand. Or at least apply pressure to the blinds from late position. My preference here is to pay the blinds and give myself some hands in better position to find something I can make some noise with. This option sounds better to me than the under the gun push with king queen. At least that's what my appendix tells me.

9:44 PM. My appendix is right. Same hand. Guy in middle position bets. Big blind raises all in. Guy in middle position calls and turns over kings. Big Blind shows queens. Obviously the appendix is a very important organ, with poker foreshadowing skills only matched by the bladder.

9:49 PM. Two hands later I use my tight image to win a pot. The action is folded around to me in the small blind. I raise 3x the blinds to 1800 which is almost 1/3rd my stack. I'm pot committed. The big blind hems and haws and then folds. My 10,4 takes down the pot. Puts me back up to 6950. And yes I was prepared to call here if he raised me all in.

9:54 PM. 690 players remain. Average is 18137. I have 6350. Funny to think that six hours ago I had over 12k. You know. Tragedy plus time. Other players who are not named Robert keep raising from under the gun and putting pressure on the whole table.

On a recent hand a gentleman who has me covered pushes all in from under the gun. I fold king queen from middle position. The blind calls and turns over King Jack.

Obviously this guy in the blinds has lower standards than I do.

He must be staying over at Circus Circus.

The under the gun player shows his cards.

Queen jack. Double damn.

This guy is probably still pissed off The New Frontier closed down and is sleeping in his car to protest.

My King Queen would be way ahead here. Don't make me get out my poker calculator.

I have that wonderful moment that occurs at the poker table where I feel sorry for myself for folding the best hand.

And then dealer turns over a jack high flop!

Which allows me to have that even better moment at the poker table where I get to feel great about myself for having averted disaster!

I would have lost the hand.

But I didn't!


Because I folded the best hand!

I'm the man.

I can dodge jack high flops baby!

This doesn't happen overnight.

The skill you are reading about here takes years to develop.

10:05 PM. 680 players remain at the party. Average stack is 18,404. I've got 5075 chips after paying the rent.

10:14 PM. Concerts were held. Passive resistance occurred. Amnesty International got involved. And you know what? It worked! They finally broke my table! I've had that nemesis guy to my left for six hours and now I'm finally free! I might get to play poker again tonight. A new table!

10:15 PM. Like Pete Rose receiving a base on balls, I hustle my way across the room to find my new seat. There are 640 players left. 297 get paid. I started this tournament with 4500 chips. As I sit down for my first hand at this new table I have 4775. I don't want to brag but I think that's what you call winning poker. There's no denying it. I'm up 275 chips in only 10 hours of play. I'm winning 27.5 chips per hour hour. At this pace I should win the tournament by February 2091.

10:17 PM. I'm taking in the sounds and smells of my new table. What a different vibe! It's a bunch of polite nerdy looking guys. Probably earned their tourney buy ins from the tech start ups they were involved in back in the late 90s. My other table was full of dudes who peaked in junior high school. I recognize one tight aggressive pro sitting two seats to my right but otherwise it all looks good. Much less ego going on here.

10:18 PM. Under the gun. I look down at ace 9. It's 1650 a round. I have no image. I push all in. Everyone folds. It's no accident. People get out of your way when you're an Aqua Velva man. Finally the respect I was looking for.

10:20 PM. Very next hand I'm the big blind. Guy in late position raises to 2000. I look down at ace king. Has there been a mistake? Have I accidentally taken the wrong seat?

Ace king? Me? It's looking so beautiful at this moment in time.

Meanwhile I'm the same guy who just pushed with ace 9. How does one play ace king after this occurs? Are there books I can read?

Unfortunately I don't have enough chips to get clever. Come to think of it, maybe I am fortunate. I do recall the last time I had ace king in the blinds it ended poorly.

For the second hand in a row I push all in, satisfied to win the blinds, yet not disturbed by the opportunity to double up. It's gotta happen at some point.

Mostly I'm happy not to have to make a decision with a small stack out of position on the flop. I'm easy like that.

Mr. Position raiser folds and after paying my small blind the next hand I have 8400 chips.

10:29 PM. The last hand of level 8. Guy in early position raises. I look down at ace queen. Where are these cards coming from?

I ride the rush of brainless poker and push all in, again. I'm that guy. Sometimes it's fun to disrespect the game by reducing it to preflop poker.

Calling my all in will cost this other fellow around half his stack. He had around 17k at start of hand. He hems and haws. It's the second time today someone has hemmed and hawed in my presence, which incidentally is an expression I use all the time in my sewing blog "The Denim Year."

I sit in silence. Looking back on it now, I wish I had done me some talking and shown him how comfortable I was. Cause the reality is if he has ace king he would have already called. And if he has a pair, I'm behind and technically want the fold. The only hand I want a call from here is ace jack or worse.

After what felt like hundreds of seconds, he calls and turns over ace queen.


We chop up the blinds and antes.

This sure would have been a nice hand to have had ace king.

I end level 8 with 9400. I'm a rich man.

10:31 PM. We take a half hour break while the poker authorities remove the 25 value chips from play. Our new blinds in level 9 will be 400/800/100. 2100 a round. 590 players remain. Roughly half the players remaining will make the money.

At this point in my life, and by life I mean poker career, I'm not focused on cashing and winning $2733 which is what they're paying places 253 to 297. The $2733 figure is actually misleading. It's really only a $1233 profit since we bought in for $1500.

(Well $1243 profit if you include the turkey sandwich.)

I've driven to Vegas this weekend to come in first place and win $664,426. That's not always the case. When I came out to play in 2006 WSOP my goal was to cash. I needed to achieve that milestone to feel good about my poker career. Rationalize how I was spending my time.

But not now. Not this year. In 2009 I don't need to convince anyone of anything.

All I want is to win six figures so I can buy me some Nikes and stay in town for the Main Event.

The phone lines are open and it looks like we got a caller from NYC.

Hello you're on the air.

Hey Robert. First time, long time. I'm enjoying your recap and got a quick question. Why would you play so tight for the past six hours and fold hands like king queen multiple times if your goal wasn't just to cash? It seems like there have been plenty of opportunities to either double up or go home and you've passed on them.

Good question. Excellent point. I'm especially impressed by your ability to get a phone call into written text format. As for your question I fold some of these hands because I need to get to this point. I need to get myself close to the bubble. Then I can take chances. Now is the time to build my stack and start getting chips. Lots of these players will tighten up to protect their stacks because they really want to make it to day two. They've come this far and they want to make the money. I want to make day three.

11:00 PM. Level 9. I take out a piece of paper before I sit back down and write "Boy would this would be a good time to go on a rush." The 9400 chips sitting in front of me are the most I've had since that ace king versus pocket 5's hand back in level 4. The average is 21211.

My plan is to double up and go to sleep tonight with 20k. Accomplishing this would be pretty amazing. To get myself back on track and suddenly make the struggle of the whole day disappear.

At some point I'm gonna pick up a big pair again.


Although part of me thinks (knows) that maybe it's better this way.

Maybe not getting too many big hands keeps me out of trouble.

11:03 PM. Early position raise. I fold king jack and feel real good about it.

11:07 PM. I fold king ten from early position. And yes I want a cookie.

11:10 PM. Guy at my table in late position looks at his cards and announces to the table "I fold." However he takes no action in terms of returning his cards to the dealer.

Why do people do this? How does this speed up the game? Do they expect action to continue beyond them without them returning their cards?

Actually the better question here is why does this behavior drive me so nuts?

11:14 PM. I'm under the gun and see pocket tens. I'm 0-1-1 today with this hand. I chopped with the lady to my right at the last table when she had the same hand. And I lost calling an all in from a smaller stack who held pocket jacks.

I'm not going to fold but how do I play it here?

All of the usual under the gun problems exist.

-I push all in and just hope no one has a bigger hand.

-I mini raise but that's sort of silly because I'm not going to fold if it gets raised behind me and mini raising gives the blinds a cheap look at the flop.

-I raise a healthier amount.

How would I play it if I really had aces?

I decide that anything more than 3x the blinds looks like a medium pair. So I slide out 2400. 3x the blinds. That feels right.

A big stack sitting directly to my left in second position raises to 5000.

Like Clay Davis on The Wire I can hear my appendix mutter "Sheeeeeet."

Action gets folded back around to me. What to do?

I don't think he has aces or kings. I think he would have raised more. His mini raise smells like ace king to me. Or perhaps a smaller pair.

With multiple big stacks at my table, I think the purpose of his bet was to give himself room to fold if the wrong player (bigger stack) came over the top of his bet. He wants to make it to day 2.

If my read is right and he has ace king I'm 57% to win this. I can get my remaining 7k in the middle and if my hand holds up there will be over 20k coming my way.

Or I can fold and eat the 2100 loss. Probably bad poker. But I'm mentioning it because I'd still have 7k in front of me and guarantee staying alive.

However if my tens hold up and I win this hand, I will most likely make day 2, hit the money with some chips, and put myself in a position to do some damage.

I trust my read.

Big stack does have ace king.

I got exactly what I wanted.

Right up until the ace, 9, 9 flop.

There's no miracle for me on the turn or river.

Just like that it's over.

At this point everything went black.

There was silence for a few seconds.

Then Journey's Don't Stop Believin' started playing.

Monday, September 07, 2009

One Lottery Ticket Please Part V

I gotta finish this story at some point. Right?

For my own sanity.

If you're late to the party there's

part 1

part 2.

part 3

part 4

and now part 5 below.


6:24 PM. The good news is only 1170 of the 2781 players that started the day with us still remain. The bad news is I've only got 1825 chips and 3 hands to push. I fold 2,6 off from 3rd position.

6:26 PM. I fold 3,9 off from 2nd position.

6:29 PM. I throw my 25 ante out for the dealer to grab. This transaction leaves me with 1750 chips. I peak down at my first card and it's an ace. Good enough. I make the executive decision that I'm better off not looking at the second card. Instead I slide my 1750 out there. Much better this way.

I may have looked around the table and shrugged my shoulders. The kind of shrug that says "I got aces here but I'm going to act like I'm just going all in because I'm so low on chips and about to be the big blind, so maybe you'll fold and save yourself 1750 chips."

You know. That shrug. Come on. You know you've seen it.

My subtle Jedi mind trick makes no difference. One gentleman calls. Then so does another. I got action. If you're an optimist, you're excited by the fact that if I'm gonna win the hand, I'm gonna triple up. Who needs to go through all the trouble of winning a hand like this and only doubling ones chips?

Flop is 2,3,4. There's a pot size bet and the other guy is small so he calls all in. First gentleman turns over pocket queens. The other pocket tens. Unfortunately this forces me to look at my second card.

I turn over a 4. And feel strangely good about it. I got 9 outs! Kind of like I'm on a flush draw.

There's two more 4's in the deck, Four 5's for the straight. And three more aces.

And if you know me well you know I always hit my flush draws, mostly just to see the other players reactions.

I don't even need to look at the turn and river. I start counting the chips in the middle. I'll have 5850 after my hand hits.

The earth spins. Across the table I hear the guy with queens gasp. Apparently the dealer turned over another 4 on the river.

People saying I can't suck out anymore.

I still got it.

No matter what they say.

6:35 PM. 1130 players remain. Average chips is 11075. I got 5350 if you're keeping score at home. And the best part is suddenly I feel like a monster stack.

6:42 PM. With blinds at 150/300/25 I raise in middle position to 750 with ace 9 suited. My nemesis from a couple of hours ago (the guy who raised me all in with pocket 5's) calls. So does the big blind. The 3 of us see a king 2,2, flop. I don't continue bet and we check it around.

A second of my suit hits on the turn. I'm ready to start throwing some chips around but before I can act the big blind bets out 1650. I wouldn't mind getting my chips in as the aggressor but I'm not in love with calling off my stack here on the draw. I keep running the math. There's around 2500 out there...but calling 1650 to win 4200 doesn't make no sense on a 4 to 1 dog.

My better option is to raise. However I don't think I have enough chips to get him to fold a king or worse a deuce. And I believe he has something. Doubling up here won't win me the tourney. But getting knocked out will lose it. I fold.

Nemesis calls behind me. I am able to maintain my calm when a diamond doesn't come on the river. They check it down. Nemesis wins with king 10 of diamonds. Damn that guy has my number. Why couldn't we have flopped 3 diamonds? Not even for the chips I'd win. Just for my ego.

6:47 PM. 1060 players left. Unfortunately I'm sitting right next to a monitor showing this statistic so I can't help but to keep looking at it between hands. Because obviously it makes a big difference to my small stack how many players are left.

7:00 PM. I end level 6 with 3900 chips after folding from the small blind. Dinner break. Cards back in the air at 8:30 PM. Blinds will be 200/400/50. That's 1100 a round but at least I'm starting on the button so I'll have the maximum number of looks to make my move.

7:05 PM. I stand on line for a sandwich and use my 10 dollar voucher. People saying this event costs 1500 bucks. According to my accountant it's $1490 baby!

7:09 PM. Much like Felix Unger at the start the Odd Couple I have no where else to go. Unlike Felix Unger I can't return to the home of child hood friend Oscar Madison. If I had planned this trip well I'd be going upstairs to my room at the Rio. But since I'm not staying here I do the next best thing. I walk out to my car in the parking lot, turn on the A.C. and eat dinner.

7:23 PM. I know I've bragged in the past about how I never need to use the bathroom. Well guess what? I gotta go. At least my body is so advanced aerodynamically that it waits until breaks to get the urge.

I take the long walk back across the parking lot to inside the Rio to use the restroom. When we make a movie of this day we'll have me just pee into a cup. Much more memorable.

7:35 PM. I'm back in the car and between the past 24 hours, and the turkey sandwich I just ate, I gotta admit I'm feeling tired. I decide to take a nap. I put my seat back and set the alarm on my phone.

8:15 PM. The alarm goes off on my phone. I think I feel worse than before. Lets play poker!

8:27 PM. Back at my seat. My favorite monitor says there are 975 players remaining of the 2781 that started the day. Average stack is 12835.

8:31 PM. First hand after the break. New guy at our table limps under the gun for 400. What the hell does this mean? Two more people smooth call behind him. Action gets to me on the button. I look down at 5,6 suited. Damn it. I can't fold the Lawrence Taylor.

I am tempted to push but to be honest I'm not feeling it. I look at the guy under the gun and he's looking around the room, as if he's not involved in the hand. I take the safe route and just call. So do both blinds.

Flop comes king, queen, jack. One of my suit. Incredibly it gets checked around.

Turn brings a second of my suit. And the gentleman under the gun bets half the pot.

Damn. I'm in the same spot as that ace, 9 hand before the break. I'm not getting the right odds to chase the flush. And I'm not getting my money in first.

What kills me is I think it's coming. I am convinced another diamond is going to come on the river. That's what intuition tells me. I've seen this hand before. It comes on the river and it's really unfair to the guy sitting across from me with a real hand.

However my way too logical math brain steps in and points out that if it doesn't come, I can't beat any hand. I don't even have enough chips to bluff.

Damn it. I'm getting swift-boated by my math head.

I fold.

8:50 PM. Another hand against that same new player. He opens in early position for 1200. It gets folded to me in late position. I only have 3000 chips left. Ace jack is more than good enough. In fact it's the best hand I can ever remember seeing in my 5 years of playing poker. I shove my chips out there. And stare at him calmly. Whatever happens happens. No need to act strong or weak. He has to call. And hopefully I'm not dominated. As they say in track and field, I'm ready to race.

He folds. For 1800 more.

Huh? What just happened? Sure doesn't make a ton of sense mathematically.

Psychologically I understand it. But not mathematically. Mathematically he's risking an additional 1800 to win 5300. That's almost 3 to 1 odds. And he wasn't a small stack.

I suppose he was playing something he considered to be junk and didn't want to show the table his range of hands. Personally speaking, I think it's good advertising to show the table you play lousy hands. But that's just me.

And last time I checked there were 930 players remaining.

9:01 PM. 870 players left. Average stack is 14384. I got 4400.

9:13 PM. 850 players remain. They're dropping like...things that drop. I pick up queen jack suited in the cut off seat. It's a hand I've had a crush on since high school and I'm excited to raise with it. Unfortunately some bully in middle position gets in my way and moves all in. I fold.

9:18 PM. I got 3 hands till I'm in the blinds. I'm down to 3400 and starting to feel desperate again. I got ace jack that one hand but otherwise it's all 2,9 and 2,7.

9:20 PM. Under the gun I pick up Ten, Jack suited. Gold in this economy. Seriously. Ten Jack suited? Are you kidding me? I love overplaying that hand.

I shove my 3300 out there and feel really good about it. I know I'm exuding confidence. Everyone is looking at me differently. I don't give them eye contact but I can feel them staring. My theme song from that pilot I did for a sitcom that never made it to television starts to play over the sound system. Lets just say that if I get called here it's gonna be because I'm behind. Not because someone dares to challenge my mojo. Who would have the nerve?

A dude in the blinds, the kind of character that Sacha Baron Cohen might play in a movie, looks at his cards and decides to get cute. He shrugs his shoulders at me and asks me how much I bet.

Damn him. Shrugging shoulders is my move! These freaking hacks stealing my act.

I shrug my shoulders right back at him and gesture for the dealer to count.

How in the world could I possibly be expected to ball park such a large stack.

There were at least 6 chips on the table in front of me.

My indiscriminate stack doesn't slow him down. He calls me and turns over king queen. Whew. No problem. No problem at all. We all know my Ten Jack is a coin flip against any over pair. But in this spot against king queen I'm at least a 4 to 1 favorite.

I've never played dungeons and dragons but I suppose this is similar to situations in that game where someone has "hit points."

The only question is how I'm gonna beat him. Will he completely whiff and I'll pair my jack? Will he flop trips and I'll go runner runner for a straight? Or will I hit trips on the river to take out his over pair?

Dealer turns over a queen ten rag flop. Okay. So trips it will be.

I do the math and get excited about the 7500 chips I'm about to watch the dealer shove my way.

Did I mention that that a few hands earlier this same tool called over a reporter from Poker News to give his chip update?

Who does that? Who needs press that badly? This isn't your movie opening buddy. This is a poker tournament.

The universe responds with a ten on the river.

Dude looks across the table at me like he'd never been sucked out on before.

I shrug my shoulders.

To be continued.

Monday, August 24, 2009

One Lottery Ticket Please Part IV

This is part 4 of my recap of playing in WSOP event 51. I'm unintentionally setting a world's record for longest time to complete a blog entry and would like to apologize to Walter Cronkite and others who have begun reading the first part of this series, but are no longer with us. I promise to have this finished before the 2010 World Series.

If you're the kind of person who checks their email playing internet poker while also watching television, you might want to skip part 1 and head straight to part 2. Whatever you do, don't start with the entry below as you'll feel confused much like a character on LOST jumping all over time.

I know. Now you're gonna start with the entry below because you don't like it when other people tell you what to do. Fine. Do whatever you want.

I was only trying to help.

4:14 PM. I count my chips and look up at the video monitor. The average stack is 6839 and I remind myself how happy I'd be if I had just showed up to the tournament right now. I have close to average chips.

Off the record, I'm having a hard time buying my own mantra. The same mantra I've sold to millions of anxious people at seminars all over the world. And yes, in case you are wondering, I am available for your next corporate function.

Truth be told, I don't remember the next few orbits. From what I've read, the earth continued to rotate. Like a boxer covering up and listening for the bell, I waited for the round to end. We came to the end of level 4 and I got a much needed break. I walked all the ways through the Rio and tried to clear my head. When I reached Summerlin I decided to turn around and head back.

The funny thing is I made money, having begun the last hour with 5175 chips, and finishing level 4 with 6450. In some cultures this would be considered a good thing.

5:21 PM. Twenty minutes into level 5 and I'm seeing no playable hands. To make matters worse, I've got the guy I gave half my stack to sitting to my left and making my life difficult. He's applying pressure and forcing people to make big decisions. He's seeing lots of flops and if I were to enter a hand he'd be in position against me. So unfortunately my cards matter. Look I'm not a hemorrhoid expert, nor am I familiar with the clinical terms used by the medical professionals but this guy is what's known in the business as a pain in the ass.

5:23 PM. The woman to my right with approximately 3 grand in chips pushes all in under the gun. I look down at pocket 10's. I can't fold here, but playing this hand means I'm just hoping that no one behind me wakes up with a better hand. Since I'm going to call if I get raised, I get proactive and push. Everyone behind me folds. She asks me if I have a pair which seems like good news.

Then she turns over her cards and shows pocket 10's for an anti-climatic chop. I'm almost embarrassed by my superego's entitlement. "First real hand in over an hour and I chop the blinds. Unbelievable"

My id says "Yeah but at least she didn't 4 flush me with runner runner."

My ego just can't take it anymore. "Do you realize you're talking to each other like you're two different people?"

My id responds "We're completely different people. I'm not like him or you at all. We are such different people. We are. We are."

At this point the woman to my right looks at me and says "We are...what?"

I sit there silently. My id in particular is especially still.

Very softly, underneath the sounds of chips clicking throughout the room my superego whispers "Dude I think you just said that last part out loud."

My ego whispers back "Oh, so now it's you."

My phone vibrates.

I look down and see a text message sent at 5:26 PM.

From my id.


Then at 5:27 PM:


5:29 PM. From the looks of it we have around 47.4% of the field remaining. I look up at the board and confirm that there are indeed 1319 players left.

5:48 PM. A gentleman in middle position pushes all in. He the kind of guy who plays sub par cards, not because he's loose but rather because he genuinely thinks king jack is a good hand. His stack is half the size of mine. It's a similar situation to the hand I had against our lady friend. I look down in the blinds and see pocket 10's. Here we go again. I call. On this occasion Mr. King Jack has pocket jacks. I double him up. Leaves me with 3600. I've definitely had better Saturday at 5:48 PM experiences than this one.

5:55 PM. Here's some random math for you: For the past hour on approximately 50% of my hands, the first card I've looked at has been an ace. But over and over again the second card has been a rag. Fascinating. Over and over again. And I keep folding them. The best second card I've seen is a 7. Maybe I shouldn't look at the second one? Maybe I should just look at the first and raise? There's gotta be a way to fix this.

5:59 PM. Last hand of level 5. From early position I look down at queen jack suited. I haven't played many hands this hour so I'm hoping my early position mini raise gets respect. And by respect I mean my big stack nemesis folds. He calls. I miss the flop badly. I have less than 3000 chips left and prefer to save them for another spot. My plan will be to push preflop and either win the antes or double up. But I'm done with this hand. Please bet so I can fold sir.

6:03 PM. Level 6. 150/300 and 25 ante. 700 a round and I'm about to pay my blinds. I think I'm still alive, but sources say I am seeing a very bright light.

6:08 PM. Pocket 5's under the gun. According to my plan I'm supposed to push here. What else can you do? My id wants to push. My superego wants to push. Even my ego thinks it's the only play. But the guy making minimum wage who controls my hands comes up up with another idea. He decides to limp. That's right.



This "guy" tells me that someone behind me is going to raise to isolate me and then we can race. He convinces me that this is what's meant to be. I don't agree but it's just too much trouble to argue with the voices in my head. So I play along and call.

There are a few limpers behind me and then the small blind steps in and makes the move and raises to 1100. Ahhh. I get it. It's perfect. I'm going to push when the action gets back to me. Just like I said I would. But some of the medium stacks caught in the middle behind me will have to fold. Because they don't want the guy in small blind reraising all in behind them. I'm going to win alot more chips this way with all their dead money. Thank you universe for the secret message. And to think I was going to win less money by raising under the gun. What do I know?

And then something completely unexpected happened.

The big blind announces raise.


He shoves out 3200.


I've played a few hands of poker over the past 5+ years. That's a raise and a reraise. It's oh so very likely that at least one of them has me 80-20.

Yes I know- I might be getting close to 4 to 1 from the pot. A call wouldn't be a terrible move. However if I wasn't going to take them odds for 25 thousand chips with ace king, I'm not exactly dying to take the worst of it here.

Survival is more important to me.

If I fold I still have 2450 chips. I can still shove on another hand. Specifically one where there isn't a raise AND a reraise in front of me.

6:12 PM. 1950 chips left. No one fades away like I do. My chip stack is a modern art exhibit. Critics are raving over its simplicity.

6:13 PM. I got an agent pitching Rick Moranis on a film I wrote where he plays me getting smaller and smaller in direct proportion to my dwindling chip stack. It's called Honey I Play Weak Passive Poker.

6:14 PM. I'm really trying to go all in. I swear I am. But I've seen 2,7 the past three hands. If only they were suited. Damn it's still so tempting to push with it. According to my right brain, if my left brain can confirm I have two cards dealt to me I should push.

But I don't. I'm stubborn. I got a blog to write and I damn it I need to tell a bad beat story. I need a pair so that I can get beat. I need ace king so that I can lose to ace queen. Come on already. Give me a top 50 hand I can go home with.

6:17 PM. Okay. I'll admit it. I'm sitting here thinking I wish I could go back in time and call that guy's all in with my ace king suited. I'd either have 25 thousand chips. Or I'd have avoided the past two hours of misery. It's SO win win.

And since you brought it up, what does Mr. Pocket 5's do if I push my 10k+ into the middle on the flop? Yeah instead of making my almost pot sized bet what if I led out all in?

Does he call on the 9 high board with his 5's? Maybe he does? Since he was willing to raise all in. And perhaps my pushing all in would stink of desperation?

But maybe he lays it down.

These are the things you wonder about while you're folding and waiting for Rick Moranis' people to call you back.

To be continued.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

One Lottery Ticket Please Part III

This is part 3 of my recap of playing in WSOP event 51. If you're gonna spend your hard earned time reading it, I suggest you start here first. I only offer this advice because I'm looking out for you and concerned with you living your life as well as possible.

3:54 PM. The powers that be break my table. It's a shame too cause I had a pretty good feel for how these guys were playing. And my image was immaculate. Everyone's seen me play tight for 3+ hours. Then go on a rush. If I played more hands now I definitely could have gotten some courtesy folds.

3:56 PM. I walk over to a different section and sit down at my new table. I look around at the chips. Everyone is small. The most is like 6000. Except for seat 1. He has a big stack that's pretty sloppy and because I'm on the other side of the dealer I can't get a good look at it. He has his smaller denomination chips in front too, blocking my view of his larger chips. Shame on me for not pursuing this information more arduously.

4:08 PM. I fold my first 5 hands. Taking it slow. Getting to know the table.
Around 1000 players are eliminated, leaving around 1800 left in the field. The average stack is approximately 7000. I'm very aware of how fortunate I am to have over 12k in chips. It gives me the freedom to make some moves and play some poker. It also gives me the freedom to sit back and fold if I need to.

4:09 PM. It's my big blind at 100/200. There are 5 limpers and the small blind completes. 1400 committed to the pot as I look down at ace king suited.

What to do?

I can go conservative and tap the table. It's not completely absurd. No one would ever put me on ace king later in the hand.

Of course the disadvantage would be when the flop comes out ace, 10, 4 and I'm letting someone with ace, 4 take some chips from me.

Ace King plays well heads up. I don't need to see a flop with 6 other people. I got chips. I say raise. The only question is how much?

In hindsight I wish I made a smaller raise. You know. Something like 800. Or 1000. In that moment I didn't want to raise too small and create what El Guapo might call "a plethora" of callers.

So the guy who controls the voice box in my throat said "Sixteen hundred more."

A complete overbet. I'm satisfied to take down the 1400 out there, and if one of these smaller to mid range stacks wants to repop me with pocket 8's, I'm happy to race.

One advantage of sizing my bet this way (I thought) was it might create the image of a mid pocket pair. Isn't this how lots of your friends play pocket 9's? Pocket 10's? Pocket Jacks?

They're terrified of seeing a flop. So they overbet preflop.

The guy in seat 1, under the gun, with the indiscriminate sized stack calls.

Everyone else folds.


He might have limped with aces.

He might have me out chipped.

Optimistically I might be about to increase my stack to over 25k.

But truth be told, this was the exact kind of situation I was hoping to avoid at this point of the tournament. I wanted to reraise mid stacks. Not play a big hand out of position against the only other guy at the table who can bust me.

The flop comes out 2,4,9. One club. Which happens to be the suit of my ace and king. This isn't an awful flop for me.

As far as I'm concerned my mid pair is probably still the best hand. Unless he's hit a set, or is in fact slow playing aces, I'm in good shape.

If I had pocket jacks I would bet out here. I don't want to check, have him check behind me and see an over card hit on the turn.

There's 4600 out there. If I had only raised 1000 there would be 3400 out there. But unfortunately there's 4600.

I play with my chips and eventually decide to slide out 3750. 5550 of my chips are now out in the middle. Almost half my stack. I think this bet shows I'm potentially pot committed. I ain't talking about a marijuana addiction.

The gentleman in seat 1 takes his time.

He studies the situation.

I sit calmly and stare at the chips in the middle of the table.

Just like I would do with aces.

It's like old times.

I'm waiting for him to fold.

He doesn't.

After a minute or so he declares he's all in.



All I wanted to do was play conservatively and hold onto my 12k chips until opportunity presented itself and now I'm stuck in this spot.

Come on Robert.

I ask how many chips he has. He tells me he has me covered. That doesn't answer my question. I haven't seen any chips move from his stack so I get the amateur dealer to remove 3750 from his stack and put it in the middle. Let me see how big this move is to him. I'm not posturing. I really have a decision to make.

As an aside, I am disgusted with myself for not knowing exactly how many chips he had. Yes the angle is difficult. I can now see he has his bigger chips to the left back of the stack where I couldn't see them. But whining about it now is just making excuses. It was my job to know beforehand.

Okay. Back to the moment at hand. He has presented me with two huge problems.

1- He can't fold. I can't reraise him and get him off his hand. He's taken that move away from me.

2- I don't think he has air. I do think his hand is ahead of mine right now.

Still, this is tough for me. There are mucho chips sitting in the middle. I'm getting close to 3 to 1 on my money. If he has a pair, I'm close to even money on this call. It may look like a donk call to those of you playing along at home but it has some merit. I'm 25% to win a hand that I'm getting 3 to 1 on. People flip coins all the time. This ain't that different.

Let's get one thing straight. I'd have 25k in chips if I win. How often do I have a 25% chance to have 25k in a WSOP tourney when the average stack is 7k? Yes there's a 75% chance I'm walking out the door. But 25% of the time I'm a monster stack. And unlike years past I can do some damage with a big stack. I'm not here to fold my way to the money. I don't need to cash in this tournament to buy groceries and pay rent. I've come to Vegas to win hundreds of thousands. This could be a step in that direction.

What could he have? Pocket aces? He limped under the gun. And called my raise. Knowing full well I'm probably leading out on the flop.

What if he has a set? A set of 9's? That's the hand I can remember losing to the last two times I've walked out of the WSOP.

Yeah. If he has a set I'll have a hard time forgiving myself. It'll be a long ride back to L.A.

But if he just has a pair?

And the really sick thing here is I think I can suck out on him. I swear. I'm totally convinced he will turn over something like pocket 8's and I will show my hand and he'll gasp as I hit a king on the turn. Then he'll get to tell me how poorly I play.

25% big stack. 75% go home.

If I fold I still have over 6k in chips with blinds at 100/200. I'd be slightly below the average. Folding would mean I'd simply have to start over.

And then I remember my mantra.

If you told me I could have 6000 chips in event 51 at 100/200...I'd take it.

I like my tournament play too much to have a 75% chance of walking out the door.

Wow it's so gross to have given away almost half my stack on this hand.

But I fold.

And the gentlemen who outplayed me in seat 1 turns over pocket 5's.

Wow. What he doesn't know is I'm too big of a donk to fold tens here.

If I had the over pair I'd be up to 25k.

Well on the bright side, at least the flop didn't come out ace king 5.

Then I'd be getting on the freeway for sure.

The woman sitting to my right asks me if he had me beat.

There's no good answer.

I want to say I folded pocket 3's.

That my antenna clearly picked up his pocket 5's and I made the big lay down.

Instead I sit there in silence.

To be continued.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

One Lottery Ticket Please Part II

Friday June 26th.

11:50 PM. I see the lights of Vegas from the 15. Tonight I appreciate my arrival more than usual as I've driven in tandem with some of the worst drivers ever. If these guys are playing in the $1500 WSOP event tomorrow I should absolutely go deep.

I don't know what's happened to driving on the freeway. You're supposed to stay to the right at all times, and only use the left lane for passing. Yet the norm is to do the complete opposite.

So we've got all sorts of donks in the left lane. You know. Because everyone wants to think that they're driving as fast as they possibly can. This slows down traffic and forces all the maniacs to go to the right lane to pass.

The unfortunate result is there's no safe lane for fast nor slow drivers. Everyone suffers. Multiple times, in both lanes, I have to jam on my brake while the car in front of mine comes skidding to a halt.

I really wish police officers would give out tickets to people driving the speed limit in the left lane. And of course to the people passing on the right. Something needs to be done to fix this. If only I had a blog where I could suggest change for the common good by writing about it.

Saturday June 27th

12:25 AM. I arrive at the Rio to register for the tournament and find out it's sold out. Damn. I'm not sure why this possibility didn't occur to me beforehand. The strange thing is I'm told to come back at 9 in the morning because they may release more seats.

I say something logical like "Why can't you sell it to me now? I'm here and I've arrived before the people who will be here at 9 in the morning." The gentleman looks back at me like some clever metaphor I haven't written yet. I leave him and wander aimlessly through the main poker room to take in the atmosphere and consider my options.

I'm frustrated to have come this far and not get in but the bigger problem for me is this completely messes with my plan for the next 12 hours. I really wanted to sleep in till like 11 and be fully refreshed for the tourney. I haven't even checked into my hotel yet. Now I gotta get up at 8 AM to come back over here? I'm cranky just thinking about it.

Is it a better move for me to go play the event at the Venetian? Or sit at cash games all day? Or come back here and play Main Event satellites? I close my eyes, take a deep breath. This must be exactly what it smells like in a fragrant prison.

1:10 AM. I'm standing in line to check in at the Hilton. I got some last minute internet deal for 3 nights, for the price of 1 night at the Rio. I need the 3 nights in case I somehow make it deep. The Hilton feels nostalgic because it was my sports book the last half of the Vegas Year. In fact I drove by our old house before doing the valet. It's still not rented. Hmmm. Maybe I should have stayed there tonight. The hotel clerk talks me into an upgrade for 20 bucks more per night.

2:00 AM. In bed.

3:00 AM. Wide awake.

4:00 AM. Still awake.

8:00 AM. I wake up and notice the time. My mind begins to race. Lots of people want to play WSOP events for the chance to win a bracelet. I'm in the minority who's much more excited by the potential six figure payout.

I'm also intrigued by the 4500 chip starting stack. In years past with the smaller starting chips I've found myself having to commit to one hand and either going broke or doubling up. With 4500 I can actually play some poker. Which convinces me I can get some chips. And have a long weekend. Okay. I'm going to the Rio.

8:30 AM. I give the valet 5 bucks after he brings me the car and he thanks me a little too much. That's my barometer that our economy isn't doing so well. People aren't tipping him 5 bucks.

8:45 AM. As I walk towards the registration booth I hear a guy outside one of the poker annex rooms saying "One seat left in a sit and go for the 1500." I think it cost $175 and was pretty tempting. The plus side is I could win my way in and save $1325 "if it's meant to be." However I was fully prepared to spend the full buy in and if I don't win my way in, I'm basically giving up my chance to get one of these 9 AM seats. I like the structure too much to miss out on this tournament.

8:50 AM. I get in line to register. People are getting seats. This is great!

9:15 AM. The movement stops. We're sold out. Again. Double Damn.

The funny part is that no one goes anywhere. We're all so used to Harrah's misinformation and chaotic mismanagement that none of us believes them when they say the event is sold out. We're collectively calling their bluff. On a side note- I've never seen so many people so anxious to give away 1500 dollars.

9:30 AM. People are losing patience. Voices are raised. The same guys who would be going all in and giving away their stacks in level one want to know for sure if it's sold out. Some of them begin to walk out angrily and mock the rest of us "idiots" for staying in line for an event that is sold out. Apparently this makes them feel better about their choice to leave. This exodus allows me to move up from around 30th in line to around 15th. I think this is what Bob Marley meant by "movement of jah people."

9:40 AM. I haven't lost hope but it does occur to me that I could have to stand in line for two more hours to get a seat. Is that worth it? Will I still play my best? Am I better off not standing in line for two more hours?

Well the one thing we all know is I'm not going to have to be one of these guys who has to ask someone to hold their place in line cause they have to go take a leak.

9:51 AM. A deadhead walks by with one finger in the air saying "I need a miracle. Who's got my extra ticket?"

9:52 AM. I haven't had my coffee yet so that last moment may not have actually happened. It might be me hallucinating.

9:54 AM. The mob is getting angry. Asking to get the tournament director on the phone. I feel nothing. Except tired. Who knew all those years of sleeping out over night for concert tickets in my teens would pay off?

9:55 AM. Harrahs releases 25 seats. By now I'm like 8th in line.

9:58 AM. I get in! Now if I can just show the same patience in the tournament.

9:59 AM. Okay. What to do next? I got two hours. I can go eat breakfast in the Rio. Or I can drive back to the Hilton and take an hour nap. Easy decision.

10:20 AM. My door at the Hilton is open because the cleaning women is inside. As I enter she asks me if this is my room. "No m'am. I just saw the door wide open and figured I could rob it if you didn't ask to see my key."

11:30 AM. I get my wake up call.

11:42 AM. Get out of bed.

11:46 AM. Put back on my lucky outfit.

11:51 AM. Go buy coffee.

12:08 PM. Drive past three billboard signs for Edward M. Bernstein accident/injury attorney. My favorite one is "Enough Said. Call Ed."

12:23 PM. Make it to my table. I have 4425 in chips. Only missed one orbit of blinds. I recognize two of the players to my right from The Vegas Year.
In fact one of them is a guy I first played with back in 2004 on my first WSOP trip out here. You know. Back when I had my cheat sheet listing the top 25 hands.

12:31 PM. Blinds 25/50. I raise it to 125 in early position with ace queen. Middle position calls. Button reraises to 400.

I hate this. I have no clue how he plays.

Is this his one hand per hour?

Or is he playing 50%?

I call in case the flop comes out ace, queen, queen. So does MP.

Flop comes 3 babies. I check. MP checks. Button pot bets.

I think he might be making a move so I raise all in.

Just kidding.

The truth is I use my x-ray vision and see his pocket 9's.

I fold.

12:44 PM. Ace queen again. Thank you universe for again giving me the hand that Doyle says he's lost the most money with. I mini raise to 100. Big blind raises to 250. Nice price and at least I can see a flop with position.

Flop misses me. I fold to the continuation bet. Down to 3700.

12:57 PM. Pocket kings. Decent timing since I'm the guy who raises pre flop, gets reraised and then folds on the flop. I raise to 150 in really late early position, or early middle position. depending on where you grew up.

Small blind calls. He's the only guy at the table wearing sunglasses.

Back when I spent a few years rapping I had the rhyme "Wearing sunglasses...cutting summer school classes." And now for some reason at this moment in time I can't get it out of my head. Two guys at my table are listening to ipods. Who needs an ipod when you got dope rhymes like that?

Flop is jack high and otherwise uneventful. I think for a moment, just in case I have ace king, and bet 250. He calls.

Turn is 9. I think for another moment and bet 400. He calls.

River is rag. Sunglasses plays with his chips and then slides out 750.

I actually appreciate this bet. It would have been scarier for me if he checked, I bet, and he pushed. I can't raise here but I'm also not folding. He's probably betting to steal the pot. Of course he could have two pair and be value betting. But he's wearing sunglasses.

I call and he turns over ace queen for ace high. I'm up to 5150.

I think I might recognize this guy from driving in on the I-15 last night.

1:05 PM. There are two Russian players at my table raising and reraising each other at every opportunity. I stay out of the way. I end level 1 with 5075.

1:19 PM. I'm doing lots of folding. I'd like to be more active but I'm getting nothing playable and them Russians are making it hard. One is seated to my right and the other guy two seats to my left.

1:20 PM. Bored, I look up towards the far end of the room where I can see Pauly sitting up high in the dark rafters looking like the the Judge who owns the Knights in The Natural. Someday I'm gonna tell him my story from 9-9-99 when I hung out with Phish in Vancouver.

1:48 PM. I'm down to 4875. No cards. The Russian gentleman to my right must be an internet player because he never remembers to put out his blinds. Oh and he raises 50% of his hands. I know I can win some chips from him if I reraise but I'd prefer for the universe to give me a bigger hand that I can simply call with and let him do the betting. I don't want to win the first bet. I want to win the flop and turn bets too. Cause I'm greedy.

1:58 PM. I haven't played a hand in level 2 cause I'm the second oldest player at the table. I pick up 4,6 suited in early position and take advantage of my image by limping in. Action gets folded around to the blinds. Obviously I have aces or ace king or something big. Small blind completes. Big blind taps the table.

The three of us see a 5,6,queen flop. Sunglasses is the small blind and he checks. Big blind bets 150 to find out if I'm holding ace king. I smooth call. So does sunglasses. I'd be really happy if I picked up a flush draw on the turn.

My friends in the random math lab do me one better. The turn is a 6. See how life works? I limp from early position with 4,6 and get rewarded with trips. Let that be the lesson here kids. Always play mediocre cards from early position as weakly as possible. That's how you win chips.

Both blinds check. I play with my chips. Everyone gets nervous when the board pairs so who knows what message I'm sending? All I know is it's real hard to get anyone to fold at this table so there's no point slow playing. I bet 400. Sunglasses calls. Big blind folds.

The river is a 7. Sunglasses plays with his chips. And then moves all in.

He he. Again? The two calls and then the river bet?

Come on man.

I ask for a count. It's only 1650. It's not like my tourney life is at stake so this is going to be an easy call. Is there anyway he could have a straight? Probably not. But it is possible he could have a 6 with better kicker. He was the small blind in an unraised pot.

I call and this time he turns over ace 8. I show my trips. He gets up and heads back to the I-15 so that he can swerve in and out of traffic for the next 5 hours.

Yeah. I definitely saw that guy on the road last night.

Level 2 ends a few minutes later and without doing anything too fancy I have 7050 at the first break.

2:30 PM. We get back from break and the WSOP suits announce they're gonna replay God Save the Queen after apparently offending some of our British friends with The Sex Pistols version the day before.


This is how we're gonna show sensitivity and class?

I'm sitting in a room full of some of the most obnoxious testosterone filled human beings on the planet, there are young girls walking around in their underwear selling products I can't remember and someone's feelings were hurt over a song cover?

Harrah's wants to show more sensitivity?

How about making all the players at my table shower?

Besides this is England we're talking about. We're about to celebrate July 4th. Didn't we fight a war 233 years ago so that we wouldn't have to apologize for playing a rock and roll version of their national anthem?

I'll tell you this: If I ever win a bracelet I'm going to insist on Radiohead's song The National Anthem. By far the best one out there.

Meanwhile the real punchline here is whoever won the next bracelet requested we honor our Iranian friends by playing the National Anthem of Iran. Or as the WSOP guy with the mic called it: "The national anthem of the Islamic Republic of Iran."

This prompted a guy standing near me to ask me "Did they just say Islamic?"

All we were missing was Bruno.

2:55 PM. Still in level 3. Blinds are 75/150. I make it 375 under the gun with pocket 2's and based on the number of hands I've played, I expect a little respect. The guy in second position to my immediate left calls. Everyone else folds. We see an ace high flop with 2 diamonds. I bet 750 into the 975 pot. He calls.

Another ace comes on the turn. This is tough for me. What would I do if I really had an ace? Sometimes I might check as to not lose my customer and induce a bluff. At this table I would probably bet since no one folds. I decide that he won't fold if I bet so I check and see if he has an ace. He checks behind me. I'm ready to fire again on the river.

The dealer turns over a king. My feelings suddenly change. I'm no longer comfortable betting. I wouldn't be shocked to see a hand with a king in it. I check. He checks behind me and turns over king 9 suited. He was chasing the flush draw. Based on what I saw I don't think he folds on the turn if I bet. The real shame is that the river was not the 2 of diamonds.

I say "nice hand." I'm down to 5900.

2:59 PM. Next hand I'm the big blind and call a late position raise to 400 with 10, jack. Only 250 more. The flop comes out king, jack rag. Against other players I'd lead out. Or check raise. But this gentlemen was tight. I believed he had the best hand. I was calling the preflop raise to flop 2,8,9. Not king jack rag.

I'm down to 5500 about to be the small blind.

I remind myself that if I just showed up, and was about to be the small blind and found out that I had 5500 chips: I'd be happy.

If you're just joining us now I've had one big hand today. The pocket kings back in level 1. I've had ace queen and missed twice. I won my chips with 4,6 suited.

3:09 PM. Interesting hand. Two guys limp. Small stack in the big blind raises. Early position guy folds. Big blind doesn't know there's another player in the hand. He thinks he was heads up. So he shows his pocket jacks. However the other player hasn't acted yet.

Here's where I think the other player plays it wrong: he moves all in! The pocket jacks guy has to call.

What I think the other player should have done is smooth called and then pushed all in if any overcards came. And obviously fold on the flop and save his chips if he can't beat jacks. Why get all the chips in now? Why not punish the pocket jacks guy by pushing all in if an ace flops? Even if he doesn't have an ace?

It turns out he didn't. He had king queen. The pocket jacks held, and the big blind doubled up. Here's the best/worst part: the big blind was assessed a penalty! For exposing his cards! This was absurd to me. The "no exposing cards" rule exists for the purpose of not gaining an advantage by showing your cards. This gentlemen was showing his jacks to be polite. And he got punished. So the lesson here kids is, once again, never show your cards when you don't have to.

3:23 PM. Folding.

3:36 PM. Level 4. 100/200. I switch to my lucky card protector and pick up ace 8 of diamonds on the button. Folded around to me, I make the standard 600 bet. Big blind plays back at me all in. I think it was something like 1800. Whatever it was, I was getting 2 to 1 here and couldn't fold to what smelled like a low pair kind of move. He turned over queen jack. An ace came on the flop and I felt good about myself as a human being.

3:38 PM. I pick up ace suited again and raise the next hand from the cutoff. Everyone folds. Two in a row.

3:40 PM. Very next hand. I raise to 600 with pocket jacks. Obviously I'm having one of those rushes Doyle always promised me I'd have. Everyone folds except the big blind.

Flop comes out queen, jack rag. Two spades. Big blind leads out for 1000. I sit there and try to take my time. Then raise to 3000. You know. To show him that I'm not falling for his move. He takes his time. And then moves all in. Wow.

I'm really hoping I'm up against ace queen here. I'd rather not have to fade the straight or flush draw. But what difference does it make what I want? I call. He turns over the ace high flush draw.

For a split second I feel sorry for myself. It's kind of like if I just had top pair, then it's fair for me to lose this race. But for all the trouble it takes to hit a set, somehow it's incomprehensible for me to get outdrawn against it.

I don't. My set somehow holds up. I'm up to 12350 chips.

I've got a little more than double the average stack.

What could possibly go wrong?

To be continued.

Friday, June 26, 2009

One Lottery Ticket Please

By now I'm sure you're all tired of hearing my publicist explain how I'm waiting till 2011 to get back into the poker scene.

It went a little too far this week when In Touch magazine included me in their "Celebrities Are Just Like Us" segment. These are a few pages in their rag where they give patronizing examples of celebrities doing things that non-celebrities too might find themselves doing.

Usually it's stuff like: "They pick up their kids from school" (Just like us.) And we get to see a movie star parked in front of a school.

Or: "They go shopping for anniversary gifts." (Just like us.) And we see someone who had their TV show canceled in 1997 shopping at the mall.

Obviously you can see why this magazine is so popular.

This particular one said: "They wait until 2011 to play in the World Series of Poker" and there was photo of me wearing sweatpants while getting some coffee in Beverly Hills.

You just can't buy that sort of press.

Well actually you can, if you have a publicist.

Why am I taking the time off from poker? Why wait till 2011 to return?

It's always been a dream of mine to play professional baseball. I'm planning to report to the Chicago White Sox Spring training camp come February. I'm prepared to spend the year riding a bus around the minor leagues.

I'm waiting till 2011 so that I can spend more time with my family in 2009 and 2010.

I want to work on all the projects I've been putting off all these years while I've been working on all the projects.

I've also always wanted to start a boy band. If not now, when? We all know I'm not going to look this young forever.

Although I will admit that as much as I want to learn to hit a curve ball and dance in unison in front of prepubescent kids, I have noticed the World Series of Poker is going on. Right now. As I type these words. These words too.

Damn I'd love to go and play an event. Buy me a lottery ticket. Be a tourist with a mission. Oh sure I might have to sit through hours of traffic to get there on a Friday night. But that part seems like really good practice for folding.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


When you play online poker there's something real nice about how complete strangers from all over the world will take the time to share their deepest thoughts and feelings with you in the text box. They want to let you know how they feel.

Like today I had a short exchange with one gentleman halfway around the world that ended with him telling me "STFU" which I think means "Safe Trip For Universe."

This is the kind of positive experience the internet provides. Before the internet you'd actually have to travel to another country to hear someone tell you "STFU."

But now in 2009 you can read "STFU" from the comfort of your own home!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Basic Strategy

Hand after hand the worse cards win. We've all seen it.

Not in the long run of course. In the long run the better cards will win.

Sklansky and others assure us of this.

Just not right now.

It's okay. It's what makes the game good.

Right now in this moment the worse cards are gonna win. You know. The short run.

This means my most important job at the table is not to get upset. Not to take it personally.

I'm pretty sure I know this. But sometimes I forget.

The beats happen. The gutshots hit. Everybody hurts.

Some of us can handle it.

Some of us can't.

It's what makes the game good.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Just Robert being Robert

I traded for Manny Ramirez this morning in my fantasy baseball league. I wasn't scared off at all by his 50 game suspension for testing positive for performance enhancement drugs. In fact hearing that news is part of what made me want to trade for him. Well that and the fact that my fantasy league is the real deal. Unlike most poser leagues, this one exists entirely in my head.

My team is pretty good this year. If I can get one of my imaginary friends to trade me some relief pitching I just might be able to make a run at the title. But I don't want to get ahead of myself here. Some of the other owners are jerks and truth be told, I haven't even begun negotiations so I don't want to be unrealistic about who I can get.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Sorry Dave

I'd like to apologize to my friend Dave.

For at least a month now (truthfully much longer) I've been emailing him my bad beats. I want to show him how unfair poker has been to me. Even though I know bad beats happen all the time.

20% wins way too often. 10% occurs. When poker players go to the doctor and are told they have a 5% chance of dying from an operation, they make plans for the funeral.

Heck even 1% happens.

Honestly at this point the only hand worth forwarding to another person is when 0% happens. That's still noteworthy. But runner runner quads taking out flopped quads? Been there. Done that.

I wrote about running bad around a month ago. At that point it had already been going on for a little too long. What can I say? I've been stuck in the mud. But my internal need to show others that it's happening is way too human. And more importantly not beneficial.

Simply put, I gotta stop whining and get back to being the emotional rock that we all know and love. The only thing worse than how I've been running is my having to listen to myself talk about it. And being Dave.

So tonight when my pocket kings go down to king queen off I'm not going to copy and paste the hand.

Well maybe, I might.

But I promise I won't email it to anyone.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Peeing and Poker

I've never had to pee during a road trip.

Oh sure, when others needed to stop there were a few times where I might have taken advantage. There's 120 hours of footage documenting my driving around the country with a couple of funny guys in 1997 and not once was I the person who asked that we pull over the van to use a rest stop.

(In fact the only time I ever asked to pull over was in upstate NY when the luggage rack turtle shell thing on the roof blew off and flew across the highway. Thank God no one in any of the cars behind us was hurt. Still the fact remains that my asking to stop was related to safety, environmental cleanup and recycling. I did not need to pee.)

Why don't I need to pee as often as the rest of you?

That's a really great question. You are obviously a smart reader.

It's just something I was born with. I sip. I only wet my throat. I don't ever gulp. I have an incredibly malleable bladder. All of these things are true.

There are also some things in life you can't explain. Mysteries that defy all logic and reason. The way an ace flops whenever you have pocket kings.

Readers of this blog may know me as the Red Ants in Nevada House Guy. But to all my friends from the "Who Can Hold It In The Longest?" competitions, I'll always be The Camel.

And I can't sit here and say my bladder hasn't benefited me. It did get me that scholarship to college. Its helped me with multiple career choices. A strong bladder is essential when you are in charge of a room full of people. Occupations like teacher, performer, evangelist, family therapist, community theater director. In all of these fields it helps when your bladder is stronger than those listening to the words coming out of your mouth.

It works that way in competitive sports too. Unless you're Rosie Ruiz. Then you have time to compete and go relieve yourself as often as you wish. This is off topic but something I've always wondered is when Rosie Ruiz cheats at marathons, if she takes the subway to get further along do you think she jumps the turnstile? Or does she pay?

I have so much to be grateful for. Holding in your urine is great for going to movies. Waiting in line for concert tickets. Hanging in Times Square on New Years Eve. And poker. Well maybe not the Times Square example. Many people do find places to relieve themselves there.

But the larger point is that nearly not enough has been written about peeing and poker. Everyone underestimates the importance of bladder control, especially near the end of a level or on the bubble. You can see the pain in your opponents. Their legs are tapping. They need to go.

This is why the last hand before a break is such a great time to go into the tank. Phil Gordon teaches everyone to try to steal these last pots. But what he doesn't mention is that it's not about starting hand selection, position and reading your opponents. It's mostly about who has the strongest bladder.

Where's that chapter?

Which pro is gonna have the guts to tell me when to go to the bathroom and when to keep playing?

Do I have to be the source for everything?

Phil Hellmuth's book isn't on my shelf but from the time I've spent in bookstore poker aisles (usually while my wife is peeing) I recall him recommending something about trying to play like an elephant or a lizard. But not covering what to do when you need to pee.

Kenny Rogers may have come the closest to sharing this information when he sang that we "gotta know when to walk away and know when to run."

There's plenty of misinformation out there. I can't tell you how many times I've listened to people say they're gonna pay their blinds because they wanna play their button. So they play their button and then go to the restroom, completely ignoring the fact that the next 7 hands are free to see.

Why would you give up these free looks?

So your friend Robert is here to set the record straight. I suggest you go to the restroom before your blinds, not afterwards. The move that works best for me is to go to the bathroom after my under the gun fold. Then I try to time my return to the table after the button has passed my big and small blind. I then pay to come in, but the big advantage is that I'm in late position.

I've done no research to back up the math here but it feels like a huge advantage. If I'm playing 2/5 no limit I don't mind sticking 7 bucks in from the cut off seat. It feels much better than spending the same 7 bucks to play from the blinds. In fact, if you let me go the bathroom every orbit when it's my turn to play from the blinds, I'd gladly return and post 7 bucks from the cut off seat. Apparently products like Flomax* help make this a winning strategy.

We can argue later on (by the urinals) if this is +EV but I'd love it because I'd still have the option to raise these hands. It would be like the Mississippi straddle.

*Note to all the people working in the ad department at Flomax who are reading this blog: I agree I'm the ideal poker representative for your product. I look forward to returning to the World Series of Poker wearing an outfit entirely covered with Flomax ads. (Plus the added benefit of using me as your spokesperson is you know for certain that The Camel won't be away from the table in the bathroom when the ESPN cameras come to my table.)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

That Old Familiar Feeling

I can stomach lots of bad beats in a day. In a week. In a life. That poker skill is way more important than people tell you. I'm pretty damn good about controlling my emotions. But I do have a breaking point. Once or twice a year I reach a point where I can no longer take it. Things keep going wrong at the poker table and it feels personal. It seems fixed. Why would my opponent call an all in with that hand on that board? How did he know what was coming next? I curse the Universe. Not out loud of course. But inside I suffer. I perceive a lack of fairness. I seek justice.

Logically it makes no sense. But this isn't about logic. It's not even about money. I'm no longer playing to eat. No now I'm playing for fun. Well in theory I am. But it's not the truth. No the truth is I'm playing for my ego. I'm playing to be right. I'm playing to show myself how good I can be. And that should be enough. Getting in with the best hand should be my joy. Getting all my chips in the middle way ahead of my opponents should be my reward. The runner runner that takes me down shouldn't matter. The 2 outer that comes again should make no difference. But when it happens too often it does. I am ashamed of the universe. How can there be a God? Would God really let someone who played like that win?

I play some more. Tournaments. Cash games. It makes no difference. It happens. It happens again. It keeps happening. It's different. But it's the same. It's too often. How can luck be so consistent? I've seen it go both ways. These streaks defy common sense. Oh I know the answer. Take a few days off. Come back next week and it will all be fine. The money I can win back but not the time. That's the hidden rake. I don't mind paying it when I'm winning. But when I'm losing I notice it more. The money I can win back but that time is gone forever.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

I'm Right and You're Wrong

Trying to discuss limit hold em strategy with poker players is like trying to discuss evolution with monkeys. Or in this case, donkeys.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Poker by Analogy #6,432,069

Playing suited connectors is a lot like going to a strip club. If you can get in for free and don't have to buy any drinks then it's absolutely great. I like to see "the flop" as much as the next guy. Heck who doesn't like to look?

But if you got dragged out by some friends and already have a bad feeling about being there, then find yourself spending even more money to see "the turn" hoping that something good might happen, well then maybe you should wait until you find yourself a real hand. Or a girlfriend.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


My secret is I'm quietly preparing for the 2011 World Series of Poker.

I'm seeing the game on a new level. I'm finally able to get inside the head of players who play as I did in 2006. I completely understand how they think and my new poker task has become to exploit my own prior strategy. The funny part is sitting there and listening to them criticize my game. They think they are so smart. That's okay. So did I. When I played like they did.

I sneak onto the internet a few nights a week but because my time is so limited I'm forced to play WAY MORE loose aggressive than what I might consider optimal strategy. My goal is to acquire chips or be done with the session. I can't sit around and fold my way to the money. I'm either going to the final table with a big stack or I'm not going at all.

This week I played in a tournament with 1300+ players. I was chip leader with 6 remaining. I then ran into some real hands when I could have folded my way to a 4 figure payout. Everyone mocked me. But that's how I play at the moment.

It's hard for me to feel sorry for myself when I run into real hands after I've been stealing from them for hours. If I hadn't played so aggressively I never would have become the chip leader in the first place. So for me to lose the chips in the same manner was okay. Better for me to get familiar with these situations now. So that I'm ready for 2011.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Over One Billion Served

I finally hit the one billion mark for poker hands played.

Thank you very much.

Please don't send any gifts.

The knowledge I've gained is my reward.

What have I learned from one billion hands of poker?

That life isn't fair.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Roaches Know

Here's something I read today on how roaches obviously understand game theory. Roaches know you've gotta raise with a variety of holdings. That's why they've been around for so long. If roaches only raised when they had good cards they'd be long gone. Like the dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs are great to have at the poker table because they're so predictable and that sort of play will make you extinct. But not the roaches. When you're playing poker against a roach you never know if he's got pocket aces or 3,6 off.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Push Ups

Raising is difficult to do but good for you. The more I raise, the more chips I acquire. When I raise with mediocre holdings it disturbs everyone at the table. Kind of like I'm breaking the rules.

People tell me how poorly I play but I've got to keep raising because I need to take care of myself. If the object of poker was to lose weight then raising would be like exercising. I gotta get my workout in.

Calling isn't so good for your health. Calling is like when you're hungry and go to a movie and end up eating too much popcorn. Afterwards you feel sick and your body is all confused whether you are hungry or not because you haven't had a real meal but you are full of popcorn and butter and salt. That's exactly what calling is.

Folding is fine too. Absolutely. In any situation. Don't let anyone ever tell you in life that you have to eat the popcorn when you really want dinner. Go eat. Besides the movie will eventually come out on pay per view and the truth is it's probably not as good as everyone says it is unless you were in that first batch of people to see it. You know. Back when there weren't any expectations. But now? With all that hype? There's no way that film can be good.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Getting Back In The Flow

I haven't played nearly enough poker since leaving Las Vegas in August.

How much isn't enough?

-Once at Harrahs Rincon near San Diego in September.

-A second time at the Blerge in Brooklyn in October.

-A third time at some card room in Northern California in December.

And that's it.

I did however get back into the online scene this week after getting a small transfer on Full Tilt from Check Raise Chin.

My first action was Monday night. I stayed within my bankroll like a good human being by entering a $2.25 tournament. There were 436 players and I came in 1st place.

What does this mean?

Now I get to play in $4 dollar tourneys!

Monday, January 05, 2009

What would Larry David do?

I have 42 poker books book sitting on my shelf and that's not even counting my autographed copy of T.J. Cloutier's Hold 'Em book that my friend Joe borrowed from me back in 2005.

Lets say I were to visit Joe's home and while meeting his baby daughter for the first time I notice T.J.'s book sitting in the living room. Can I just take it back? Or do I have to ask for permission first?

What if I haven't bought his daughter a gift yet? Can I just give her the T.J. Cloutier book? What does Miss Manners say to do here? How about Martha Stewart? From what I've read OJ Simpson says to take the book. That much I know. (Cause I like to read.)

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Pros and the Cons

One benefit to not gambling for a living anymore is I don't have to worry about finding myself a lucky outfit to wear when I wake up in the morning.