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.