Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

When last we left our hero...

It was still cold in upstate NY. Really, it wasn't as bad as I expected, but I still can't fathom choosing to live somewhere that it snows frequently.

Anyway, so I spent a large portion of Saturday night working on establishing myself as the tightest player at the table. And it helped that I went card dead for about three hours. But really, I got paid on almost all my monsters, so why not play tighter than dick's hatband and just make money?

Now I don't mean I just played premium hands, but I only played my speculative hands in late position, and I only played them when it was cheap enough. I mucked AJ to a raise multiple times, but I raised with it to good effect on at least one occasion, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

So Saturday night the place was hopping, and I mean it was MGM/Bellagio busy. I waited almost an hour for a table, and I got there at 6:30. When I sat down I realized that unlike at the stud game at the Mirage, where I reduced the median age of the table by 20 years just by sitting in, here I raised the median age of the table by at least 5 years. At least half the table didn't have to shave every day yet, and it wasn't just because they were smooth-cheeked Asian boys.

So we'd been hanging out for about an hour when I limp in with J9 off suit in early position. This wasn't quite as tight as advertised, but it was decent enough to limp with, and the table was in a spate of limping, so I saw a $2 flop. And what a flop! J-J-4 with two spades is pretty good to me, especially when the Crasian kid in the 3s called my check-raise. I put him on spades, and figured he'd lay down a spade draw, but I was in way better shape than I expected when he tabled J-8 with no spades. So that was a decent little double up.

A little while later I lost a big pot with Queens from the big blind. A tightish player in middle position raised to $12, then a kid without much left re-raised to $50 after one caller. I decided I didn't wanna play Queens in a 4-way pot, so I made it $100 to go. The early two guys folded, and the kid called off his last few chips. Desired response, undesired result when he tabled his Aces. Nothing interesting happened and I doubled him up. That started a small slide which I managed to briefly arrest when I picked up a few small pots, and then just as our table started to break I picked up KK in early position. I made it $12 to go, which had been my standard opening raise all night, and got one caller.

The flop of 8-9-10 was somewhat less than ideal, but I fired on the flop anyway. Caller called, and I checked the turn. I called his small bet, then (because I'm a poker genius) I called his brutally obvious value bet on the river. He showed 88 for the flopped set, and I was off to my new table with $150 in chips. As I'm looking around for a table, a guy calls out to me "seats open!" So I take one. The 6s was open, which is one of my favorite places to sit, so it looked good. As I sit down, the guy who called me over says "now watch, he'll be the one to stack me."

Not quite, I actually don't think I managed to play any interesting pots against him. I came to that table with a conscious effort to play more aggressively, and when I looked down at the Asian Jew in early position I decided to bring it in for a raise. We were seven or eight-handed, and I got two callers. Flop comes down almost perfect - J-A-J, and I say out loud "I gotta check that."

My caller led out for $11, and the other guy folded. I called, and the 3h came on the turn, which completed a heart flush. I prayed he had hearts, then I checked again.I min-raised when he made it $11 again. So I made it $22, and he called. I thought to myself "if he'll call the check-raise on the turn, why not try the overbet move on the river?" So as soon as the river wasn't an Ace (which I feared for the chop) I stuck the rest of my chips in the middle, for a $104 bet into a $99 pot. Not really an overbet based on the pot size, but pretty serious based on the action on previous streets. He thought about it for a while, said to me "you spiked that flush, didn't you?" Which of course made me ill since I was hoping he had spiked the flush and would therefore call, and now I knew he didn't have the flush and couldn't imagine him calling.

Until he did. With A-K off suit, TPTK donkey. So then I had chips, and then it was my big blind. I fell into the habit on this trip of not looking at my cards in the big blind if it wasn't raised, and I'm pretty sure it lost me some money on pots I would have picked up otherwise, but overall I can't complain too much, since it did keep the whole friendly hillbilly image going. So I check my option, and we're three-handed to the flop - me, the small blind and a guy in middle position. Flop comes down A-8-9 with two hearts, and I check because I still haven't looked at my cards and the small blind checked. The middle position guy led out, and the SB called. I decide that now would be a good time to look at my cards, and peel up 8-9 off suit for bottom two pair.

So with a well-disguised two pair, even from myself, I raised and the middle position player called. On the turn, which was not a heart, I asked the guy how much he had left, and he showed about $70. I said "wow, you got a bunch left," and made it $25. He went all in over the top, exactly what I had wanted, and I called. He tabled his flush draw, which was bigger than the flush draw the small blind folded, and when no heart came on the river, I was stacked to about $350 on a $100 buy-in. I cashed out a few hands later after nothing too exciting happened and I gave back about $10 of my profit.

Sunday was more of the same - doubled on when I turned a straight against a guy who had top pair on a flushy board and couldn't get away from it, bled away for a while, then doubled up when my big hands (JJ, AA, JJ in 3 out of 4 hands) held up and I walked away a winner. Again. Been long enough since I was able to type that.

I did the math, and not only was I able to get unstuck for the month, I made up any losses I had for the year, and now have 2008 back in the black, which is a welcome change.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

It's been a long time...

A loooong time. It's been a long time since I've booked three winning sessions in a row, much less three sessions in a row where my results have been - nearly triple my buy-in, more than triple my buy-in, and nearly triple my buy-in. Now, we're not talking big money in actual dollars, since most of my weekend was spent at the $100 max tables at Turning Stone, but that actually makes it more impressive to me that I was able to pocket just shy of 6 buy-ins profit on the weekend, since most of the time there was only about $1200 on the table at any given time.

I mentioned that I finished my first session at TS up thanks in large part to kid who couldn't get away from AQ. Well, here's that story. I'd been playing pretty tight, but was playing come-from-behind poker all night after gifting my first buy-in on a bad river bluff. It wasn't a bad bluff because I executed it poorly, it was a bad bluff because it got called.

Who am I kidding, I executed it about as poorly as possible. But anyway, I had about $250 in front of me and was sitting at a strangely deep stacked table for the $1/2 $100 max game. There were several people at the table with enough chips to double me up, and a couple more with similar stack sizes to mine. The kid to my right (and by kid, I mean wasn't alive when Reagan was president) raised preflop to $11, and I look down to find JJ in the cutoff. I make it $35 to go, since there are already several limpers and I only want to play the hand against one or at most two players. Everyone folds, and I'm happy to pick up the pot right there.

Next hand, kid makes the same raise, and I look down at AK soooted. I think in hearts. I reraise the same amount, and look over at him and say "nothing personal." I knew at least he was going to come along, since it was the second time in two hands I had re-raised him preflop, and there was no way he'd give me credit for a big hand twice in a row. I picked up one other caller, and we saw an Ace-8-10 flop, all diamonds. Junior checked and I bet out $50. The other caller folded, and Junior called. The 8c came on the turn, and I bet another $50. Junior check-raised me $70 on top, and I went into the tank. I had enough to make the call, and Junior had a little left behind. I had him covered, but not by much.

The more I thought about the hand, the more his raise made no sense. He wouldn't have called a preflop re-raise with anything that had an 8, unless it was pocket 8s, and if he had flopped a set on a flushed board, he either would have led out at the pot or check-raised me there. I also didn't expect him to have any diamonds because the only moderately reasonable hand to call a preflop re-raise with was Ace-paint, and the Ace of diamonds was on the board. So either he's an idiot and called a $24 reraise preflop from one of the tightest players at the table (hard to believe from our home game, but for most of the weekend I was one of the tightest players at the table) with K-Q of diamonds, or he's making a move with A-K and the King of diamonds for the redraw to the nut flush. So after thinking it through, I decided that's what he had, and re-raised all in to go ahead and get the last few chips in to keep from having to make a decision on the river to throw chips in when I knew I was beat if a fourth diamond hit.

Junior called off his last few chips, because not many people can fold for $25 into a $400+ pot (although I saw a similar move on Saturday night), and I said "A-K?" He said "that's good," and turned over As-Qh for a dominated hand that was drawing to 3 outs. He missed his Queen and I was up for the first time that night. Several people remarked on it being a good call, but it all came back to his bet on the turn making no sense with the previous action in the hand and in other hands that had come before it.

And going back to the hand where I folded J-10 preflop to a raise and a reraise, Robert pointed out something that I left out of my description. One of the main reasons I laid down the hand was that I fully expected the guy with Aces to re-re-raise when the action got back to him, and I think that is what cost him the pot. The all in of $30 on top of the raise to $20 was big enough to reopen the betting, and the guy with Aces just smooth-called, which baffled me at the time and got expensive for him later as he got them cracked. Me, with an all-in and two callers behind, I'm sticking every chip I've got in the pot preflop if I have the chance with Aces, because I don't ever want to play Aces in a four-way pot. Ever. And we saw what happened.

More to come later, including me doubling up on my first hand at the table (twice), Kings and Queens getting cracked, and still making out good and getting unstuck for the year.

Friday, February 22, 2008

it's always balmy in the casino...

So I don't really care that it's colder than a well-diggers asshole up here. Because I've spent a whopping three minutes out in the weather, so it's pretty irrelevant. I got into Syracuse about half an hour later than expected because we had to wait at the gate for our crew to arrive from another plane. That's not usually an issue, except that the second we got moving from the gate, the toddler behind me decided she had to pee.


And we all had to know about it, as she informed us at the top of her lungs for the first ten minutes of taxiing and ascending, that she had to go NOW. Now I understand, that, being childless, I am naturally somewhat unsympathetic to the plight of those who have spawned. BUT, if you know you're going to be trapped in a metal tube with a couple hundred other people for upwards of an hour, why don't you do what Ray Wylie Hubbard suggests in his song Choctaw Bingo and "strap the kids in, give 'em a little bit a' Benadryl and a Cherry Coke?" Sedate the little buggers until they're old enough to maneuver on their own and not scream their bloody heads off!

Now I gird myself in the comment field for the remarks about how insensitive I am to the plight of the world's parental units. We all know I'm insensitive, get over it.

But I got here, got my rental car, plugged in my GPS, and cruised right down to the Super 8 in Oneida, NY, which is one of two hotels within 5 miles of the Turning Stone casino, and the one that isn't actually the resort, with $200+ rooms. It's not bad. There's a bed, and it seems clean. I have no intention of running a blacklight over the sheets, and that's just for my own peace of mind.

The poker room at Turning Stone is pretty decent, and I'll have a full review up on PokerWorks in a few days. They do allow 18+ gambling, so I felt like the old guy at one of my tables, but the juniors in the room weren't annoying. We'll take a look tomorrow night and see if they can maintain non-asshole status on a weekend.

I made a little money, but it took a while. I stacked off on my first hand for my first buying ($100) running a bluff with a busted straight and flush draw that the guy obviously didn't want to call, but he was willing to give away $50 on a hand where he thought he was beat, and I didn't have enough behind to push him off the hand.

They spread $1/2 with a $100 max buy-in and a $200 max, and the $100 max tables are the popular ones, so that's where I spent most of my time. I bounced chips up and down for most of the night until I managed to move ahead for good flopping middle set on a K-10-4 board and picking up a decent pot. There were a couple of decent pots that I would have taken down could I have made the call preflop, but one was particularly interesting.

I was in late position (cutoff or button, I don't remember) and looked down at J-10 off. I like to see cheap flops with this hand because it can turn into lots of things, and because I read that blurb in Super System where Doyle said it made the most nut straights, and I overplay the hand like so many others. But with 7 players in the hand, it's worth $2. Small Blind raises to $20, and another guy re-raised all in to $30. Now I like my had a lot less, and it doesn't improve when there are two more callers at $30 each. I think for a moment, but not too long, because I can't call $30 preflop with J-10, even when I'm getting 4-1 on my money. I likely would have made the call if it was suited, but I was playing pretty screwed-down poker, and may not have decided to make the call looking for a J-high flush.

So of course the flop comes down J-10-10, original raiser leads for $50 (I put him on Aces or Kings) and the other guy in the pot moved all in for another $55 on top. He was steaming over a river catch the original bettor made on him a few hands earlier for a monster pot, and his preflop calling range was huge. The other guy folded, and the original bettor called. So there were two all ins, and the original bettor had about $200 more behind. He tabled the expected Aces, the second all in guy tabled A-10 off for trips, and the other all in guy turned over 4s for a pile of shit. A-10 held and he stacked a $300+ pot because he could call $30 preflop with A-10 off. I don't have that move right now, as my preflop play has been a lot tighter lately, not raising or calling raises with hands like A-10, K-J or other trouble hands. This does not apply to our home games, where the stakes are too low to make proper poker attractive to me.

So any thoughts? I still make that fold, but with 4 people in, I probably called the $20. I just couldn't make it happen with the re-raise and two overcalls. I made most of my money on a hand a few minutes later when I made a pretty good read against a kid for a $400+ pot. I'll write that up a little later.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mmmm...Butter Mints

It's the little things, really. Those little slices of life that make the trip from North Carolina, where the weather on the weekend is likely to be perfect for a nice 20-mile bike ride to Syracuse, NY, where the weather forecast for today says '21, Feels like 11.'

11!?!?!? That's a temperature? Fahrenheit? Really? That's just silly. What's even sillier is that I'm headed there. It's for some training for a manufacturer of theatrical rigging that we distribute, theoretically to make us better suited to specify their equipment and work with the factory. I think it's really to laugh at the southerners in the crowd.

But yesterday, as I was finishing up lunch at Mertz Heart and Soul (highly recommended if you find yourself needing a lunch or dinner in downtown Charlotte), I saw on the checkout counter a container of butter mints. You remember butter mints, the compressed sugar mints that you would get from a candy dish as you left the restaurants. Butter mints taste like childhood, so I bought a bucket of butter mints yesterday, and they make me hate the fact that I'm going to Syracuse a little bit less.

Suzy actually got to spend a night at home last night, while waking up every three hours to make her dad take his medication. I swear this must be what having a kid is like. It's more acceptable when the person you have to tend to every few hours is an infant, but when it's a grown man who can't manage to wake up to his own alarm to take his drugs every three hours and has to rely on his grown daughter to parent him it becomes less cute somehow. Although some of you who have spawned may tell me that it isn't all that f'n cute in childrens, either.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Best laid plans and all that shite

So the plan for the weekend was have a nice dinner and go see a play Thursday night, make a little profit playing poker Friday night, have dinner with my parents to celebrate their birthdays Saturday night, and chill together Sunday, and ride my bike if I felt good enough.

0-4. I'm batting .00000 so far, and it's Sunday night.

So I laid out of work on Friday because I felt like refried ass, and I had managed to get all of the quotes that had to be delivered this week out on Thursday. So I dosed up on 24-hour Sudafed and Nyquil, and managed to stay a little stoned through a wondrous losing session of poker.

Even though I was a little high, I don't think I played any worse than I normally do, I just couldn't catch a draw for the first couple hours, and that bled away a bunch of my stack. That and I continued to not give the aggressive player on my left credit for flopping top pair when I had second pair, a thought that was continually reinforced when he turned trips a few times, and then I managed to go through a couple of orbits of Stud, Pineapple and Omaha Hi/Lo without winning a single hand (or half of a hand), and you have a recipe for rousing success.

It's hard to snatch a losing session from the jaws of three full houses in the first hour of play, but I managed. I struggled back in the last O8 session to make up a chunk of my losses, but it was still not a pretty night by any stretch.

Then Saturday rolled around, and along about mid-afternoon, as I was contemplating bathing (not very seriously, but beginning the contemplations), Suzy called with instructions to get dressed, we were taking her dad to the hospital. He had taken a fall at work last week that had left him understandably sore. Well, instead of improving as the week went on, his condition worsened until yesterday he was in agony.

Schmuck hadn't gone to the doctor before this point, of course, but that's another story.

So we took him to the emergency room at 2:30, and I called my folks to tell them that I would not, after all, be joining them for dinner. We weren't scheduled to meet until 6, but my knowledge of emergency room time and the fact that he had no life-threatening injuries allowed me to understand that we would not be finishing this process quickly. Turns out he really did fuck himself by waiting until Saturday to seek treatment, since he has several slipped and/or herniated discs in his back, and of course none of the orthopedists work on weekends. So Suzy had to go over there to spend the night to keep him dosed up with his pain meds and help him with more complex tasks. Like standing and sitting. His back is pretty fucked up, and I'll be amazed if it doesn't require some type of surgery.

So I'm a bachelor for a second weekend in a row, gunning for three. I leave on Thursday for Syracuse. In another brilliant move, one of our manufacturers has decided that February is a perfect time to roll out some new training for us. In upstate New York. Fuckers. I'll be at Turning Stone Thursday evening before my session on Friday, and Saturday afternoon and evening since my training ends Saturday around noon. Look me up if that's near you.

Then I repeat my recent trend of home for a week, hopefully without the getting sick part, then I head to Chattanooga for most of the first week of March. And in other news, thanks to the fact that I have a day job, this marks three years in a row that I have had to turn down work at the WSOP in the summer. Someday I'll take that 8-week leave of absence.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Freakin' Valentine's Day

Well, I am at least with my loved one. I'm sick as a dog, but I am home with my wife, so that's some consolation. Not much, since on one of the few days of the year that a married man is pretty much guaranteed to get laid (birthday, Valentine's Day, Anniversary) I'm too sick to do anything about it in fear that I'll break out in a coughing fit and hock up a lung in the middle my flagrante delicto. Nice.

Yeah, I brought the crud back from Vegas, while leaving some of my cash there. After a few days to digest my trip, I think it was a good thing overall. It was really interesting to have several days with no real obligations. To anyone. Not my wife, not my job, not any friends that I made hard and fast plans with. It was the first time in over a decade that I've had more than 24 hours like that. I think I might need that more than once every ten years. I don't want it too often, but every couple years might be nice.

Another thing I realized, once and for all, is that I don't have the temperament to play poker for a living. Bad beats get to me too much to depend on this game for a living. It was good to finally come to that realization, and to do so without actually trying to live off of poker. Somewhere deep in the back of my head was a notion that if I crushed all the games I'd give it a shot. As I continued to not crush the games, I started to learn a little more, which made the whole thing worthwhile.

Of course I wouldn't have minded being profitable while learning, but there aren't very many graduate assistantships in poker. So I paid my tuition, and took a class. I passed, I think. I'm now and forever a recreational player. That doesn't mean I don't wanna win, I only want to win all the chips on the table. It means that I know my place in the poker economy, and that's worth something. To me at least.

Now I'm gonna take my Nyquil-high ass off to bed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Isn't it funny how a good session goes a long way to making you forget about how you hated poker a little bit just a few hours before?

So after I wrote my last post, I went down to CK and Bacon Bikini Mary's room to see what the plan was for dinner. We ended up watching F-Train take 3rd in an FTOPS satellite (2 seats, sorry, bro) and then heading over to the Mirage for some grub and maybe some stud. We finally found the cafe-type place, which they conveniently hide behind all the spendy joints in the Mirage, and I had a phenomenal hamburger, then headed down to put my toe back in the water at the $1-4 spread limit stud game. There's no ante in that game, and the bring in is only $1, so you can pretty much play forever without paying for more than a couple of hands per hour if you wanted to. I splashed around a lot because most of the old nits in that game fold to anything, and you know exactly where you are at any point if they raise, plus some non-hold 'em time was exactly what I needed after the junk-kicking I took earlier. After I folded one hand on 5th street, I heard from behind me the expert analysis of almost any of my stud hands ever, "Poorly played on all streets."

The Good Dr. had landed. He and Change100 were hanging out with Change's college roommate (who was really cute) and I had texted them to come over for a beverage. We went over to Revolution for a couple drinky-drinks and a chat, then they were on their way to quest for Elvis. Not my quest, you gotta ask Pauly for that one.

So I meandered back in a better frame of mind for poker after a couple vodka & red bulls, and took my seat in a $1/2 No limit game, with a firm stop-loss of $400. If I dropped that, I was done gambling for the trip and would go back to my room and watch soft porn on the hotel cable for the rest of the night til I had used up all the complimentary lotion bottles the IP had provided.

I didn't set a stop-win for myself, but when it hit 4:15 AM and I forgot that the action was to me, I decided I was a little too tired for optimal play and went to bed, after erasing all of my MGM losses and some of my Rio losses to boot.

My first table was fine, nothing spectacular, until Billy Joel sat down. Not really Billy Joel, but some guy that really tried very hard to look like Billy Joel during The Entertainer years. Billy kept whining about the cap on the buy-in, how he couldn't play poker for $200, and he was proven correct. By the time he made it through one dealer's down and left to go play a $70 sit n' go, he had managed to not play poker for almost $400 in thirty minutes. I hate to think what he coulda lost in an uncapped game. He was way too aggressive, overbetting with air and mucking when he got called. That trick cost him his first stack. Then he called too much all the way down with third pair, and that cost him another stack. I recognized the plays, I'd made them all myself a few hours earlier, but not that session.

I chipped up slowly, and had picked up about half a buy-in before our table broke and I joined Mary up on the upper deck of the poker room. My first big break happened soon after moving when I got in a pot with an unintelligible Frenchman (UF) who was sitting next to Mary. The little Cal-Asian chiropractor lady sitting next to me had warned me to call him down forever, but not to let him get there on his draws.

So I get in a big hand with him that I can't remember the details of, but I made a $50 river bet with the second or third nuts, and he reached into his rack for a pile of chips, and made a string bet. He stuck out a little more than the call, then a big pile of chips for a raise without saying a word. I didn't say anything, because my gut said I wanted to call, but I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to invest my whole stack in there. I had over $100 in the pot, and it would be another $100 to call, so if I was going to call, I was going to push instead and try for the double up. But the dealer called him on his string bet, I tabled my hand, and he mucked. Apparently his MO had been to make huge river bets to push people off their hands, or to make big calls and suck out. So I chipped up to little over $300 at that point.

My next key pot was raising in early position with AK. I made it $11 to go, and got a few callers. Flop came down K-9-x, and I fired about $25 into the pot. Folded around to UF, who called. Turn brought another pretty King, and I fired $50. UF called again, and the river was a 9, giving me Kings full. I bet another $50, thinking that he might be scared of the brutally obvious full house, and he raised all in. He did it properly this time, so I called, showed my boat, and wondered what he was so proud of.

Two pair, top kicker. He tabled Ah-4d for Kings and Nines with an Ace kicker. The only sad part of that hand for me was that he left right after that. My little Asian friend was thrilled that someone busted him, and she left soon after. Mary decided to go sleep when CK wandered by, and our table broke right after that. So I decided to follow the money, as a guy I had dubbed "Hollywood" because he was sitting at a 1/2 table with his 1987 vintage Ray-Bans on had a full rack of reds and I was pretty sure I could relieve him of that burden under the proper circumstances.

At this point I was up more than a buy-in and having a good time. I realized something about my game after analyzing that session and the one from the Venetian, my two successful sessions of the trip. I need to win a couple, then start chatting. I observe people better when they don't necessarily notice they're being observed. So if I can keep myself in a friendly frame of mind and chat up the table, be the funny hillbilly guy, I can make way more money. At the Mirage, I was in full-blown hillbilly mode, giving people nicknames, some good-natured needling, and generally doing anything I could to be the friendly guy that they want to pay off on the river even when they know they're beat. And since I was one of the two or three biggest stacks, I also wanted to avoid putting a big nasty target on my chest.

I think I managed to do that pretty well throughout the session, and one hand in particular showed the truth of it. I picked up pocket Jacks UTG and made it $11 to go, my standard early position raise. I got a couple of callers, and the flop came down 9-high with two spades. I fired out a bet of $20 or $25, and got one caller, a guy in the 3s that I had started calling "Larry" because he wore a Larry the Cable Guy T-shirt. Earlier in the session I remarked "Larry the Cable guy shirt, Caterpillar hat, are you sure we're not kin?"So Larry called my flop bet, then called $50 on the turn when the 3rd spade came down. I was not thrilled with that, but fired another $50 on the river when the fourth spade came. He called that one too, and shook his head when I asked "did you get there?" I tabled my Jacks, and of course it was only then that I realized I had the Jack of spades and had made my own four-flush. But it wouldn't have mattered, I couldn't have been too proud of the Jack-high flush and couldn't have called much of a raise if he'd played back at me on the river. But he showed his top pair, and said "I put you on an overpair." Fortunately, he still called.

I also have changed up an aspect of my play lately. If everyone folds, about one time in four I'll show the hand. I'm starting to realize that there's -EV in never showing your good cards. I play a lot of hands, especially when I can get in cheap in late position, so I'm gonna show down some shit hands that turned into winners, but it's also important to show down the monsters that people get away from. Otherwise, I can never run a bluff. Ever. I bluff a lot less than people think, because when you play as many hands as I do, you don't really need to bluff a lot. You're gonna play such a wide range of hands that you'll hit a lot of the time, so you bet for information more than you bluff.

Another adjustment I put into my play this weekend was tweaking my play with suited gap cards. I have been check-calling a lot of my draws, and this weekend I shifted gears on that a bit to lead out about half the time when I hit the draw on the flop. Example - I call a small raise or limp with 7d-9d from late position. Flop comes down 8-10-K with two diamonds. In the past I would check-call this down until I hit my draw, thus giving up a bunch of pot size. Now I'm trying to bet out more with my draws to build the pot. I miss sometimes, but the theory is that when I hit, I'll have a big enough pot to make up for the times I miss. Not sure how that will work out long term, but it's worth a try.

So in the end, my Vegas results looked like this -

Table Games: -$250
Non-Hold 'Em Games: -$325
Limit Hold 'Em: +$50
No Limit Hold 'Em: +$110
Tournaments: -$150

For a total result of -$565 for the weekend. Apparently non Hold 'Em games are a big leak, and table games are a given, but I was surprised at being able to come from so far behind in NLHE and actually book a win in my main game, so that's encouraging. Especially since next weekend I'll be up in Turning Stone in upstate New York taking a shot at the Syracuse college boys.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


I can feel 'em, crawling around my ankles. Serpents of self-doubt, poison to a poker player, if I'm silly enough to call myself that. After today, I'm feeling snakebit, and while the logical portion of my mind knows that most of the time I made the right moves, the moves you have to be able to make if you're going to play this game at any level bigger than kitchen table piggy-bank levels, they didn't work out so much and I'm gonna have to hit an ATM again before I can make any more plays of any kind.

I started off at the Rio, because one thing I wanted to do this trip was play rooms I've never played before, and that one certainly qualifies. I helped start a game, and took a couple bad beats to kill my buy-in. One hand was actually interesting, and is a classic case of getting the desired response and not the desired results. I had a hair over $60 in my stack, after one really sick beat and one big draw that I missed. I picked up Ax-Qc in the SB. We were 6-handed, and I had already decided that I was in my last orbit, so there were only a couple more hands left in me. I made it $15 to go, and got two callers. Flop came down A-8-X rainbow. I look down, and start to talk, saying that there's about $48 in the pot, and I've got about that left, so I'm all in.

One caller folds, and one guy sits there thinking, and muttering to himself "I just don't think I have enough outs." Now the board was pretty damn unconnected and rainbow, so if he's looking for outs, I desperately want the call. I say "will it help you make your decision if I show you one card?" and I turn over the Qc I was holding. Obviously it's irrelevant to the board unless the guy thinks I'm on a backdoor club draw, but I just wanted to entice him into calling. It worked, he called and tabled the K-8 of clubs, and I'm a huge favorite to win the hand with A-Q. 9c on the turn gives me a little concern, and the 8 on the river gives him my last few chips.

Now I got exactly the action I wanted, and just got unlucky on the end, but that stuck with me all day, and when I went to the MGM, I remembered that I've never booked a winning session at the MGM in all my trips to Vegas. Not exactly the right frame of mind to be in when you're going to play No Limit poker. But I did. My first hand I picked up Queens, and picked up a few bucks. Then I couldn't manage to get away from second pair with a flush draw and bled a little, then I lost a $350 pot to a 4-outer and started to feel the slithering around my feet.

I played a little while longer, but didn't play well, and playing scared led me to playing poorly, an then finally making a silly stand with a bad hand in a big pot with two good players and getting stacked again. Now it's time to grab dinner and I'm not sure what my plan is for the rest of the evening. I plan to play more, but I might head over to the Mirage and play a little low-limit stud before I venture back to the Venetian, where I did manage to book a decent win last night. I definitely need to change up something for a little while, so that I can get the sound of scales out of my head, and shake off the fear.

Fear's a killer, and an insidious bastard. Playing my home game, the money doesn't matter to me, because I have confidence that I can win back in one week anything I lost the week before. But out here, we're playing for money that matters more to me. I try not to put the money into real-world terms, because I have a bankroll, but since I tap into my bankroll pretty frequently for real-world things, it's hard not to confuse the two. Maybe if I can manage to make a mental shift in that direction, than I'll be able to separate a little better. But right now, I need to fill the tummy void, and work on filling the mental void before I go back into battle. I may try to play a low-stakes tourney later tonight, but it all depends on if I get my head straight and find a cash game to crush.

Psuedo Trip Report

More an update, really. I'm having a good time here chillin' in the Vegas, and one of the things I'm enjoying the most is not having a plan. The past two blogger gatherings I've been the one coordinating things, and December I had Suzy and her dad along as well. I hadn't realized how much stress that put on me until I came out here with no set plans other than to hang out and do whatever the hell I felt like. It's been nice. I'm relaxed, and other than being stuck a bit, I don't have any regrets about how it's going.

I've played 3 tournaments since I've been here, and have yet to make the real money in any of them, despite getting close last night in the 7PM Planet Hollywood tourney. I busted in 15th or so out of 80 or so, with the top 9 paying. I played well, won a couple races, lost a couple races, stuck my chips in the middle with ridiculous frequency, wasn't too far ahead or behind any time, and finally lost a race late with A-10 to pocket sixes and was crippled. Meh.

Then this morning I played the 9AM tourney at Caesar's and made the final table, only to bust out when the big stack limped with Aces and I came over the top of a middle position player's raise with K-Q off suit. Middle position guy folded and I didn't hit my two pair draw, and I was done. We had done a save earlier for 7-9, since only 6 players were supposed to get paid, so I got $60 of my buy-in back. The tourney cost $90 when all was said and done, and frankly I think I would have preferred to avoid the save and just play it out. I offered a 9-way chop, but that was shot down, not surprisingly.

I don't think I played any looser than normal because I knew there was a partial save out there, I made the move I did because I thought I could push everyone off their hands and pick up some chips cheap. I didn't anticipate Aces, and I think the middle position guy lays down anything smaller, so I'd make the same move again.

Oh wait, I did. Just about 45 minutes ago in the 7PM tourney at Planet Ho. I like that tourney because the field is soft, but I don't care for the structure. That's gonna be the same issue with any event I can afford, so I may as well play the best ones I can find. So far that's been Caesar's and Planet Ho. Caesar's has slower levels, but the jumps are bigger and you start with fewer chips. Planet Ho starts you off with nearly 100 BB, but the levels are only 20 minutes and it turns into a shove fest almost immediately after the break. So in both events you can play poker for an hour, then you have to start moving all your chips in with abandon.

Tonight I sat down and almost immediately put in both earbuds, which I seldom do at the table. Seems the 10s had just sucked out on the 6s really badly, and the 6s had plenty of opinions about it. My favorite response from the 10s was "Why do I always get the big-time poker pro playing the $50 buy-in tournament?" The 6s busted soon after and went off for his first rebuy. He blew through that one pretty quickly as well, and went off for buy-in #3. At least that time he got sent to a different table. I had brought my iPod mainly as defense against the shitty piano player in the bar next to the poker room, but I needed it against the jawing of the players.

So now I'm off to meet the Asian Jew, Bacon Bikini Mary and Robert of Vegas Year fame as the Venetian in search of the elusive winning session. I dumped off more money today playing non-hold em games, which, while very entertaining, can get expensive, especially 4/8 Omaha 8 with a half kill. I was happy to get out of that only down $100.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Raging Solo

So I think it's probably less surprising to hear that I'm awake in Las Vegas at 6AM than it is to hear that I'm awake in Las Vegas at 6AM after sleeping for 7 hours.

Yep, I went to sleep in Las Vegas at 11PM last night. And I don't regret one minute of shut-eye that I grabbed.

I got here Thursday evening rather than the anticipated Friday afternoon, after deciding that getting from Downtown Denver to Blackhawk to explore the Indian casinos was just gonna suck too much. FYI, I have never in my life, in my travels anywhere in the US and abroad, paid as much for a cab ride as I did fort he ride from downtown to the Denver airport. I'm pretty sure that in most places, including Dallas, where I thought the airport was in another state from the hotel, I could have taken a limo cheaper than a taxi. So Thursday night I wandered around, blew a little money playing 2/4 (really, somebody remind me again why I play 2/4), made most of it back playing 3/6 (almost as bad a game, but I made the appropriate adjustments), and blew a little more money playing Let It Ride (I know, fuck off).

Then yesterday I started off with one of my planned goals for the trip. I wanted to play Stud at a casino. I walked over to the Mirage to see if I could lower the median age at the low limit stud game by about 30 years, and there happened to be a seat open. There were actually a couple of players under 70 in the game, and I did very well to start out. I picked up trips a couple of times, and generally played tight-aggressive poker. Unfortunately, after about a half hour of playing well, I realized that even by playing well, I could only win $40-$50 because the table was so tight after 3rd street, and it was so easy for these folks to get away from most hands at the sight of ay aggression. That's when I stopped paying much attention, and consequently stopped winning.

But while I was still playing well, a guy sat down next to me and we started chatting. He was younger than me (not by much, but looked to be in his late 20s), and we went through the whole "what do you do for a living" conversations, and it turns out he's in the business. He watches poker on TV for a living. His card says he's a "CardTracker" statistician, which means he puts the percentages on the hands on TV shows, including Poker After Dark and the PokerDown. I mentioned that a friend of mine was one the PokerDome, and we realized that we know a lot of the same people from PokerNews. So that was kinda interesting, running into someone with mutual acquaintances at a random Stud table a couple thousand miles away from home.

But not as odd as running into someone who may make a nice addition to our home game while playing a Mixed Game at Caesar's a couple thousand miles from home. Sitting there talking about where everyone's from, it turns out the guy in the 3 seat lives a mile from my house in Charlotte! So I got his card as well, and promised him an invite when I get back to town. Nice guy. Good Razz player.

There's more, including mis-judging a psuedo-donk at Planet Ho last night, but I'll get to that later. Now I'm gonna wander the strip and see what the action is like just before sunrise.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Riding my Booty off - Again!

It's time to open up the wallets and watch Falstaff suffer!

If you were reading in this little corner of the interwebs last summer, you remember my participation in the 24 Hours of Booty charity bike ride. You may also have seen the t-shirt I wore at the Winter Gathering about the event. Well, I'm riding again, and once again I'll make the pledge to ride one lap for every $50 that is donated in my name, up to 99 miles. I have a fundraising goal of $2,000 this year, because that's what gets me a different color jersey than I got last year.

The 24 Hours of Booty is a charity bike ride in Charlotte every summer, where the streets are closed from 7PM on a Friday night until 7PM on Saturday and hundreds of cyclists take to the streets of the Myers Park neighborhood to raise money for cancer research locally and nationwide. Last year, this event raised over $750K, and I bet this year will be even bigger. I'm riding with Team Barbizon, my team from work, and we raised over $16K last year. This year I've setour team goal for $20K, and I think that's very achievable.

The Booty Loop in the Myers Park neighborhood of Charlotte is a 3-mile loop through a neighborhood that's very popular with cyclists, and I'll do one 3-mile loop for every $50 that is donated in my name. Cancer is a bitch, and this is my way to fight the disease that has claimed the lives of some people I love. Here's a little but about some of the people I'm riding in honor and memory of.

Blair Beasley was a fixture in the Winthrop Department of Theatre & Dance for over 20 years. In that time, he shaped a lot of lives, mine included. Blair took the time to take a cocky kid and teach him a thing or two about directing. And a thing or two about living, as well. Blair and I went through some tough times together. I was with him the night before he got sober, and we were both trashed at a party for a show neither of us had anything to do with. I took classes from Blair when he was drinking, and became his friend when he got sober. He gave me a lot of perspective on theatre, and our place in the world, and I'll always owe him huge for that. He died a few years ago from complications from lung cancer, and I still hear his voice when I get up in front of a group of actors to address them when we start rehearsal.

I'm riding for Blair this summer, along with Caroline Crawford, the long time design professor at Winthrop who died of breast cancer right after I graduated. Without the sense of wonder and beauty that Caroline brought to the lighting design class I took from her, I likely would never have made this my career choice. Caroline had a beautiful way of looking at the world, and that infused the classes she taught. It's a shame that whole classes of Winthrop students had to miss out on the lessons that she and Blair had for them.

Suzy's mom died of breast cancer before we ever met, and it was just a few years ago that we both realized that if she had gotten sick now, she probably would have lived. The advances in breast cancer treatment in the past decade have been extraordinary, and that's another reason I'm doing this ride, to give money to the local organizations that work to find a cure for this disease. I have a friend that's working directly on a cure for types of cancer, and I think his work is great. I'm not in that field, but this is what I can do. I can put my ass on a bike, and raise money to support the people that directly fight this disease.

So help me. Go to my fundraising website and make a donation. Last year I signed up for the event less than three weeks before, and my friends kicked in a remarkable amount of money in a very short time. This year, we've got time, so I want more out of both of us! I rode 24 miles last year, in my first time on a bike in over 10 years. I've spent a lot more time on a bike this year, so I'll re-up my pledge to do one lap (3 miles) for every $50 you give. I'm capping it at 99 miles, because that's all I can reasonable hope to do in one 24-hour period, but don't let that stop you from donating!

I also budgeted $50/month this year to go to charitable giving, so that will all go to Booty from now until July. So whip out that plastic, come up with some great multiplier of 72 and make a difference in the fight against cancer, both in my community and nationally. The 24 Hours of Booty ride donates to cancer research and treatment in the Charlotte area and to the Lance Armstrong Foundation nationally, so you're supporting cancer patients all across the country when you do this.

Yup, I'm a degenerate

Yeah, there's a news flash.

So it's one thing for the host of a gathering t have an emergency and say "no, it's alright, you guys keep playing cards, I'll be back" and run off to deal with it. Typically, that's the point at which everyone packs up and goes home, not to be an excessive burden on anyone during a crisis.

Depending, of course, on the level of emergency and the level of degeneracy among the friends gathered.

Last night we discovered that a trip to the emergency room due to a nose bleed that left BG's bathroom looking like a slaughterhouse does not constitute that level of crisis. Or that our level of degeneracy surpassed the level of crisis. Or both. BG and I have a running thing where we bet on the color of the flop. I think now and forever, he's going to choose black, because not 5 seconds after he said "I'll take red," his nose started to trickle blood.

Then drip.

Then fountain.

Okay, fountain might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but by the time he decided that ice wasn't gonna be quite enough, he couldn't follow the standard advice of "tilt you head back and pinch the bridge of your nose." Because he woulda drowned. Have you ever left your water running just a steady little stream, not enough water pressure to do anything, but like you didn't turn the faucet all the way off? A steady stream, right? Not huge gushing water, not a drip, just consistent running water.

Now change the color to red. Then increase the viscosity a bit. Now replace "faucet" with nose, and your mental image is complete.

I did pay him the $1 he won on the flop while he was bleeding in the bathroom. It's only fair, after all. So after a little while we resumed play, and Skoon ferried him to the hospital, where he was taken straight back for care. Bleeding all over the triage nurse is now the recommended methodology for expediting you ER visits, I suppose.

We stayed in his living room and played cards. There were five of us left, so we were a little short-handed for a while, but we didn't hold that against Skoon, somebody had to drive him to the hospital. And of course, before he left, BG said "stay as long as you want, just lock the front door."

He got back to the game about 12:30 after the doc put some powder up his nose to stop the bleeding. If I'd known all he needed was a little bump to set him right, I coulda gotten a much quicker hookup. But it wouldn't have been covered by his health insurance. He played pretty well when he got back, too, and I'm pretty sure he finished up a little for the night. Special K has been on a sick run at our games lately, and he took most of the profit off the table. I made back my tournament buy-in and the $10 I paid Skoon to get perfect on 'Story of my Life' on GH3, just because it would tilt BG.

He's never made perfect on that song, and as Skoon was tearing it up, he said "If you get perfect on this song, I'm gonna have to come out of this chair and smack you." I immediately offered the $10, and Skoon came through for me. BG, wuss that he is, did not in fact follow through with the smacking, but he made up for it with an entertaining nosebleed later, so I guess he's off the hook.

Oh yeah, the tournament. Karma was in the ever-lovin' house for a change. I got up a bit early by paying position and hitting a lot of top pair on the flop and betting hard. I showed every single time, trying to build up a tighter table image, since I start every game with negative fold equity, no matter how I'm playing that particular night. So I picked up Aces UTG in about Level 3 or 4, and I made a small raise, maybe 1.5BB. It folded around to the Dave in the BB, and he re-raised me pretty stiff. Since this was exactly the action I was dreaming of, I shoved over the top. I expected him to fold, but he made the call. When he said "I call," I responded with my typical "You're behind," and he tabled Kings. I don't expect ANYONE to EVER lay down Kings preflop to ME. There are situations here it makes perfect sense, but I'm way, way too laggy to ever make that laydown against preflop. So I have him covered, and of course the King comes on the river to cripple me.

This is where I made a conscious effort to focus and play my best poker. I read something in Robert's blog last week that resonated with me. As a side note, The Vegas Year and The Poker Grump are two of my favorite new blogs of 2007, right along with BWoP. These three write some hysterical shit, and everyone should read all of them. But anyway, Robert said something to the effect of "my job is not to make money playing poker. My job is to get my money in with the best of it. Over and over again." I quoted that last night when Dave cracked my aces, and I buckled down with my four big blinds and played some screwed-down poker.

First I bled through the blinds and didn't auto-shove, since my friends were playing particularly weak-tight and I knew that my chances of picking up some orphaned blinds was pretty good. Jim was on my left with a huge stack, and I felt like if I actually had something, odds were good he'd pay me off. I was right on both counts, shoving preflop twice and finding no callers, then doubling through Jim twice to move right back into contention.

At some point last night, Jim picked up a boatload of chips, and decided that it was against his religion to lay down an Ace, no matter how bad his kicked. So at one point he doubled me up with A5 against my Jacks, and then doubled someone else up with A7 against another real hand. It got so funny that he started showing when he managed to lay down Ace-rag. He's usually a better player than that, but the last few times we've played tournaments together he's picked up a monster chip stack and bled it away by making extremely loose calls with ace-rag. Last night and at Blood's New Year's Day tourney, Jim has gone from a big chip stack with a chance to crush the table to a medium stack and not the winner by making too many loose calls preflop.

He did manage to cripple me with an extremely low-percentage play, calling all-in preflop with A8h against my AK (or maybe AQ) after a raise in front of us. He hit one heart on the flop, and went runner-runner for the flush to cripple me. Now I did have him covered, largely due to his generosity with chips in a few hands earlier, but he was by no means short-stacked. We both had over 15 big blinds, and plenty of play, so there was no reason to make that call with A8 sooooted. But it worked out for him, and a few hand later I was out on the bubble.

Then I sat down for the cash game and the blood really started to flow. Metaphorically in Nick's case, and actually in BG's case. I didn't have any terribly interesting hands, but Special K and I did make a demonstration of my "O8 is a game of the nuts" statement in one hand where he made the nut low, I made the nut high, and two others came along on almost every street to make us some nice little cheddar.

Oh yeah, and NL Stud plays smaller than spread limit stud. In our game. Think on that one.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

When dreams come true

When a theatre manager realizes that the lobby isn't big enough for the crowds, it's an amazing feeling. We had that experience during Corpus Christi, Jeffrey, Pageant and The Vagina Monologues. I relived those moments a little bit last night as I tried to squeeze past people to get to the bar at the Burning Coal Theatre opening nigh gala. The place was packed, and that's a great thing for a new facility.

I only knew a couple of people there, but it was obvious that most of them were passionate about the company and what they have going on. Jerry and Simmie were both glowing, as the dreams of many years came to fruition. Jerry's curtain speech was great, he gave the requisite boring thanks to everyone that helped out, but then he quoted his mentor, Adrian Hall and said "If you're not in the theatre to change the world, then get out of my way!"

That's how I used to feel about theatre, and occasionally still do, but it was great to see that in the eyes of my friends last night as they brought their dreams to fruition. The show was good, but of course I had to leave at intermission to deal with work shit, so I missed the ending. It was Inherit the Wind, though, so I know how it ends.