Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Shine, Inner Luckbox, Shine

So who's up for mounting a grassroots campaign to get Al on Celebrity Poker, now that SoCo is an official sponsor? I mean, hell, Jason Bateman has been on there, how high can the celebrity bar be? Don't poker blog celebrities count?

Not much pokery to relate, as ScurvyWife and I drove out to the boondocks of Manor last night to look at some property. Looked pretty sweet on paper, as far as 20 acres of land and a 2,700 sq. foot farmhouse in need of much repair, but the reality was a little more Deliverance than we were willing to handle. Apparently the local zoning requires at least two abandoned school buses on blocks parked out front of every trailer, with gypsy families living in them. Plus the repair part would basically mean, umm, tearing the whole thing down and starting from scratch.

I imagine it's impossible to quantify, but lately I've been wondering about luckbox equity, for lack of a better term. Pretty much any MTT that I make a serious run in and get deep I can pinpoint a hand or two where, for whatever reason, I get many/all of my chips into the pot with the worst of it, get called, yet luckbox my way into a win.

This usually happens mid/late in a tournament, often with medium pairs and a shortish stack. Someone limps from early position, I push with 1010, folds back to limper who calls with AA, I spike a 10 on the flop and double up. Or I try a squeeze play from the button with 87h versus two tight EP limpers who are folding their way to the bubble and one finds a call with AKs, but a flop a pair and it holds up. Or any of the really obvious examples where you try to steal with junk, run into a huge hand in the blinds, but suckout and win.

Stepping back a bit, it'd be pretty dumb to recommend any of the above situations, so it's kind of dumb to even begin talking about luckbox equity, much less quantify it. We're talking complete dumb and utter luck, which isn't reproducible nor exploitable.

One common thread, though, is that initial aggression is what puts you in position to activate your luckbox powers. You can't suck out on someone and double up if you don't get all of your chips into the pot. Ideally we only want that to happen when we're a favorite, but we can't always get what we want.

Or, more simply, we want to look back and find an example of two where we luckbox our way into a big pot in a MTT, where we push too hard, get our hand caught in the cookie jar, yet manage to escape. If we don't see a few of those, we're usually playing too passively and not giving ourselves the best shot at success.

Which is a long-winded way of saying that the old poker maxim of not being afraid of falling on your sword in a MTT is very true. Being active and pressing the issue will sometimes backfire, but it's a much better alternative than meekly blinding off your chips, never giving your inner luckbox a chance to shine.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How Can Three Days Disappear So Quickly?

Nothing like a nice, long holiday weekend, filled with much good food and good times, to make me happy and eager to get back to the day job, sitting here, aimlessly typing away. Or, you know, as the kids would say, not...

Got in a goodly bit of poker, including a couple of decent MTT scores, cashing for a little over $1,000 combined. Also final tabled two more Bracelet Races but couldn't finish the deal, going out 7th in one and 9th in the other. I tend to badmouth my mad MTT skillz in general but I feel like I'm playing pretty well of late, especially given the limited number of chances I get to play them these days, due to that whole staying perpetually insanely busy thing.

Cash games are still rocking along nicely. I got sucked into propping for a new site, largely due to the fact that they're paying up to 140% rakeback, and it's rolling along decently so far. They haven't had anything bigger than 5/10 running so far and the software isn't my favorite, but it's hard to beat 140% rakeback. It's currently almost all props playing, which isn't really optimal as many rock up, just trying to make money via the prop payments, but it's usually not too hard to bash your way to a profitable session.

Catching up on old episodes of High Stakes Poker and finally saw the episode where Phil Hellmuth drops in, to the delight of everyone. While it was pretty funny to see Phil's face fall a nano second after gleefully insta-shoving his remaining chips in with top two pair, only to see Barry flip over a set of queens, he did run into some pretty evil circumstances, and managed to pick the worst spots to try to bluff with junk. And general jackass or not, Antonio Esfandiari made some really nice reads and laydowns, especially getting away from AA on the river when Barry flopped two pair with KQ.

The boom/bust nature of the freelance world is an odd one. I managed to go from no work in the near future to gobs of work spilling out of my mnkey ears, all in the span of about fifteen minutes.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Like Some Sort of Headless, Party Planning Chicken

We're having people over for some barbeque grillin' and what-not tonight, which of course means that I've spent the last day running around like a headless chicken, trying to get all sorts of last-minute things done. Everything's pretty much good to go, though, except for the charring of assorted animal parts.

Knock on fake, laminate wood that is my desk, but I've been killing things on the poker side the last few weeks. I wish I could say that it was due to this adjustment, or that epiphany, but I really can't. This has been pointed out in much more eloquent fashion by much more knowledgable poker players, but in many cases you can actually distill the broader phenomena of "running great" or "running like absolute dogshit" into a pretty small number of huge pots that either break your way or don't.

Yes, indeed, all of those small pots you pick up and value bets on the river do make up a huge part of your overall BB/100, but going 0-20 in huge pots over a couple of weeks (when you normally should win 12 or 13) can absolutely torpedo you, just as going 18-2 in those same pots can help you put up huge numbers.

Not much else to report. Congrats to all you folks winning WSOP seats (cmitch and he who hunts donkeys) and taking down big MTT scores (Hoyazo).

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ubergeigh TV

Nothing very exciting to relate from the poker front. I'm alternating grinding out smaller B2B poker bonuses with some 15/30 full ring play at Party. Sometimes I wonder why I ever stopped playing full ring games, as that's definitely where I've had the best results. I've managed to claw my way back into the PokerTracker green at the shorthanded tables, but historical results are much, much better at full ring. I think it's pretty clear that the shorthanded tables are juicier, but they're also getting more and more aggressive and swingier, across the board.

So last night was pretty much dominated by watching much ubergeigh television, hitting up both Idol and Lost. Not really sure why Miss McPhee waited until last night to bust out the breasteseses, as they likely would have been worth a few million more votes if displayed the night before, but I was definitely very appreciative of the belated effort. I laughed my ass off when poor wee Elliott got absolutely run over by Mary J. Blige, reduced to waving his arms around and jumping up and down every now and then.

Lost was interesting and no real complaints, except the ending was a little unsatisfying, as far as expanding the sphere of weirdness even farther, without resolving any of the core weirdness. And yeah, I know, that's how they roll, but I just wasn't that interested in Desmond's fairly contrived backstory to begin with, so expanding in that direction left me sort of "meh".

In other blatantly pop culturey, non-poker related news, apparently Cate Blanchett has been tapped to play Bob Dylan in an upcoming biopic. What fucking planet are we living on? Did pod beings whisk me away in my sleep and transport me to some universe in which those words make sense? Sweet Jebus...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Yakkity Yak Yak Yak

I hit these stretches from time to time when I feel like I've said everything I can possibly say about poker, in some form or another. Which likely should be my cue to shut the hell up for awhile. But where's the fun in that? Or, more accurately, how the hell can I kill time at work if I do indeed shut the hell up?

Random, amorphous thoughts about poker, rolling around in my head, in no particular order:

  • It sounds backwards, but it's surprisingly hard to admit to yourself that you're a winning poker player. Because then, suddenly, you're responsible and on the hook. It's much easier to get all mumbledy-mouthed and hem and haw, questioning yourself, questioning variance, questioning everything. (And yes, I've been very guilty of this myself in the not too distant past.)

    Strip everything else away and winning at poker is pretty simple. Everyone has the tools and abilities to make money playing poker. If you want to be a winning poker player, accept the responsibility. Put yourself in position to make money. Do it over and over and over. Don't hide from or deflect the responsibility. If you have the tools to win and you're consistently losing, it's your fault. Fix it.

  • Variance is a bitch sometimes. It's natural to get reduced to a sniveling, grousing shell of a poker player, with much sand in your crotch, only to find yourself on top of the world a few months later, erasing all the losses and even putting a nice, profitable cherry on top.

    It's pretty natural to gloss over variance, as no one wants to willingly engage in an activity that could, through no fault of their own, cost them hundreds or thousands of dollars, plus much, much frustration. But it eventually catches up to everyone, at some time or another. I dug an embarassingly damn big hole for myself in the first four months of 2006 as far as poker results, yet managed to dig my way out in the span of three weeks or so. It'd be nice if our results (both good and bad) came on a nice, steady curve, but the reality is that more often than not they're all the hell over the place.

  • Most people lose money playing poker. All bloggers are people. Most bloggers lose money playing poker.

    Don't let the fact that everyone else is killing the game for ridiculous sums of money discourage you or set some artifical bar of success that doesn't seem achievable.

  • Lately I've been intentionally posting hands that I played poorly, mainly because I have plenty of fodder and I find the exercise interesting. Why do we resist posting hands that we butcher? Or when we read such, why is our immediate reaction "Dude, I would have kept that butchering to myself." Why do we instead tend to post individual, successful hands to illustrate concepts and strategies, when it's well-nigh impossible to demonstrate anything with single hands?

    I've been guilty of all of those. And it's odd, because it runs counter to just about any endeavor that you're working to improve at. Burying your butchered hands in the backyard doesn't accomplish much other than cluttering up your backyard with a lot of holes. It's silly to pretend that we don't make mistakes, each and every session, because almost all of us wee mortals do.


In non-poker news, too much sadness and loss in the poker blogging world. Many condolences to everyone struggling with such things.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Let the Deluge Begin

Looks like PokerStars is at it again, what with the freeroll goodness:

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 7330476

Monday, May 22, 2006

Incredible Shrinking Weekends

I swear that the weekend is somehow contracting and getting shorter and shorter over time. Or Monday is breeding and spreading its soul-crushing, open-mouth-breathing ilk all over the place.

Managed to get back into the poker grind yesterday, playing with some of my favorite B2B crazy Euros. A bit of a letdown at first to be back grinding at the LHE tables, instead of playing for a Main Event seat, but that sort of thinking faded pretty quickly. As the wise Popeye once said, I yam what I yam, and that's a boring, yawn-inducing LHE grinder.

The weekend world of sports was fairly disappointing, with the LeBrons succumbing to the Pistons, the Mavs reverting to the choking Mavs of old, and Barbaro absolutely wrecking himself in pretty horrifying fashion. My Sporky fantasy league baseball team is showing signs of life, though, after a slow, slow start.

Very little of enormous import going on in ScurvyWorld of late. I managed to knock out assorted chores this weekend, including getting the refractory mixed and poured for my wee foundry, which should be up and running in a few weeks, once it's fully cured and ready for operation. I need to buckle down and get started with some tiling projects in the kitchen and bathrooms, as that's pretty much the last of the big improvements planned for the house.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Guess who just bubbled in 3rd in a Stars 4000 FPP WSOP satellite, with the top two getting a trip to the Main Event, after more than nine hours of play?

That'd be me.

Surpisingly, I'm not all that upset. I should have been done in the first 15 minutes, when my KK ran into AA, but I flopped a set and was off and running. Had a couple other silly escapes, such as running KK into AA again, but versus a short stack, so it wasn't deadly. Also managed to flop and turn trip queens with AQs versus AKh with all my chips in the middle, so I really can't gripe.

Final exit was kind of bad, though, as my K7d looked kind of bad heading into the flop versus A10o, until a lovely K flopped, and a harmless turn came, and I was halfway out of my chair when an A hit on the river. But, umm, yeah, we won't talk about that.

Fairly proud of myself for hanging in there and not losing focus, as I was on the shorter stack of things for what seemed like forever, and managed to hang in. Got as high as second when it was four handed, but got short again towards the end. Short enough that neither of the lemurs left when it was three-handed would agree to a save for third, so I ended up with a princely sum of $0 for my efforts.

But hell, all it cost were FPPs and I played just about as well as I could, so there is that. Maybe I'll feel differently in the morning, when it sinks in how close I was, but for now I'm not too upset, mainly worn out and feeling like there was little else I could have done differently.

Edited to add: The Morning After

Hmm, still not too upset. I think a good bit of it is that I was playing a short stack for hours, and was playing pretty aggressively at that, determined to give myself a shot even if it meant getting caught stealing. It was sort of odd, as the big stack stopped betting anything more than the minimum bet/raise, once he accumulated a big stack. But he'd play all sorts of hands, and take them to the river. He'd just never exert real pressure or anyone or make them play for all their chips.

I guess I can't argue with that strategy, as he got a seat, but he let me hang in for forever, as he'd min bet or call to the turn, I'd shove with nearly anything, and he'd fold. The frustrating part is that he wasn't knocking anyone else out, so we just shuffled chips around for forever and I couldn't get the double I needed to really be a force. When it got down to four handed we literally played two levels, a little over two hours, and only lost one player that entire time.

Two hands stick out, in the damnit department. The first was when it was six handed, and I was the short stack at 40K, with the leader at 150K or so, and blinds somethng like 2K/4K. UTG limped, the SB completed, and I checked my BB with 3d4d. Flop was Ad 7d 10d. UTG bet something like 10K, SB called, and I pushed. Surprisingly, both UTG and SB called.

Turn was Kd, putting Ad 7d 10d Kd on the board. I start cursing the poker gods, shaking my head. They check it down, but I'm still resigned to getting bounced, as they're likely just checking it down to knock me out.

River is 6d, putting the flush on the board. They both check it down again. I'm still mentally preparing myself to be gone. They flip over Ac 2s and Ah Jh respectively and we chop it three ways. I was too dumbfounded to still be alive to get upset at the fact that I was a 96% favorite on the flop to win a pot that would have put me near the chip lead.

The other damnit hand came when it was four handed. Like I said, the chip lead wasn't being aggressive at all, so there was lots of limping and min-betting/raising. UTG folded and I was on the button with 5d6d, with blinds of 4K/8K. I was the short stack at 70K, the SB was chip lead at 200K, and BB had about 140K.

I limped with my 5d6d, SB calls, and BB raises it 10K more. This is fairly unusual, as BB hasn't been aggressive at all and is usually happy to limp/check and see flops. I nearly called, telling myself I needed a double and it's not the worst spot, as I;m fairly certain the big stack SB will just call, and if I hit the flop hard I can likely double through BB's big pair, which I'm fairly sure he has.

But I finally folded, convincing myself that, dude, I have 5d6d, and that I need to conserve my dwindling ammo for a better spot when I'm betting agressively, not calling off 10K more with 5d6d.

I fold, SB calls, and of course the freaking flop is 5h 5c 6h. (Edit: I screwed the rest of this hand up when I first posted it, merging two hands in my noggin'. I would have won the hand, as the BB had JJ for an overpair, but SB ended up taking it down when he rivered a flush with Ah10h. My first recounting had BB winning it when he rivered a boat, but that was a later big hand he won against the SB. Sorry.)

I can't beat myself up too much, as calling off 10K more with 5d6d is pretty marginal there (especially with a stack of just 66K), but I'd have likely tripled up and been a solid second if I make that call. The frustrating part is that I recognized the opportunity given the conditions, read the situation correctly, but talked myself out of pulling the tigger. In retrospect, as the short stack I'm reaching fold or shove territory anyway, so it doesn't make a huge difference if I enter the next hand with 66K or 56K, and the chance to double is pretty juicy, even though I'll insta-muck my hand 90% of the time after seeing a flop.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Friday Ramble

(Couple of shilly, bonusey things, then on to the ramble. Sorry for the prominence of assorted casino bonus talk and lists of late, as I'm compiling and updating assorted lists of such things currently, and the bulk of that will float off of here very soon and into the sidebar and other permanent resting spots.)

CasinoRoom just opened and is offering a special 100% up to $100 signup bonus, if you sign up via selected affiliates. This isn't listed on their site and is a special, one-time deal to promote the launch of the site. No code necessary to get it, just click through any of the links here, sign up, and the bonus will show up as pending in your account (it's towards the bottom on the account info screen on the side, listed as a Safepay bonus or something similar.) Clear 700 FPPs and the $100 is credited automatically to your account. If you already have a account, you can't get the bonus, as the two sites are linked together and you use the same sign-on info.

Here's the nice thing about the CasinoRoom bonus. It's the casino siser site of PokerRoom, so your log-in works for both sites. A nice side effect of this is that you can sign up at CasinoRoom, but clear the FPPs playing poker, if playing blackjack isn't your thing. (And, honestly, the WR is really high if you do play blackjack, as it will take many, many hands to accumulate 700 FPPs, something that you can do pretty quickly multi-tabling in the poker room). So yeah, you sign up through CasinoRoom, but it's effectively a 100% up to $100 signup bonus for, which is pretty juicy. is also running a 30% up to $150 reload bonus right now, which runs through May 21. The bonus code is QUALIFIERS and it's a 10x bonus, with 60 days to clear it.

The other nice bonus that's popped up recently is at Betsson, which is now offering a 50% up to 50 monthly bonus, with a WR of 25x bonus. This one may not last too long, as I imagine they'll get hit hard. They've also got a poker room with some nice bonuses from time to time and are a PokerRoom skin and share the same player base.

Commence rambling.

As for poker, I managed to post some nice cash game sessions last night, but played like a lemur in a few MTTs at Full Tilt. I've been playing a bit more aggressively at the early stages of MTTs of late, with mixed results. I don't normally like mixing it up early and prefer to lie in wait, looking for the big hand to trap with, but that's also a recipe to get 45 mins/1 hour into nearly every MTT I enter, yet be faced with a situation where I'm a 60/40 favorite but playing for all my chips. And it's not the worst spot to be in obviously, and I've had decent success with it, but I need to be more comfortable with switching gears and mixing it up a bit.

I also need to pay more attention in regards to extracting river value bets from crazies that have firmly established that they'll call one final bet on the river with just about anything. It doesn't matter if no sane player in the known universe would call a river bet with a worse hand in that particular spot. That logic ceases to apply when they've demonstrated their insanity, over and over and over.

One last thing about the Whatever mindset from yesterday's post, and I'll put that to bed. I agree that it's pretty dangerous, as the logical extension is to assume that you stop paying attention and just mash buttons and don't question either your play or your opponents' play. And yeah, that's pretty dangerous, and needs to be avoided at all costs. No argument there.

What I was trying to get at, more than anything, is that I seem to have more success when I remove the constant internal monologue that goes on in our head, while we play. At a certain point, either you know how to play winning poker or you don't. Or, more to the point, you're either making +EV decisions at the table or you're making -EV decisions. I think this particularly applies to LHE, where you're faced with the same situations, over and over and over and over, when there are fewer meta-game considerations (whatever the hell that really means) and you're never playing for your entire stack.

It sounds squishy and Miss Cleo-esque, but when I review sessions right after I finish, when I still remember hands fresh in my head, my gut instinct is usually correct, as far as what my instant reaction is to a check-raise, and if he's full of it or if I need to fold. When I'm playing at my best, I'm focused squarely on what's in front of me and reacting nearly immediately, and not spending time dwelling, in my head, about what his raise might mean, what his range might be, etc.

The huge caveat attached to that, though, is that I don't think poker instincts just spring up naturally, and that you're either blessed or not blessed with them. Poker "instincts" are very much learned, through reading books, thinking about poker, talking about poker, and playing an absolute shit-ton of hands. You can probably boil 90% of winning poker down to simple pattern recognition and learned behavior. If responding in a certain way leads to more chips flowing into your monkey paws than flowing out, you learn how to respond that way over time, or you run out of money or interest and quit playing.

Sometimes your instincts are wrong, like my previous example of needing to make more river value bets in highly aggressive shorthanded games, against opponents who will make calls there with just K high. I need to bang my head against the concept, see it when I review hands later, drill it into my head, and work until my "instinct" there, against those opponents, is to automatically bet on the river.

All I'm really suggesting (and I'm pretty much solely talking about LHE here) is that there may be value in divorcing the analysis stage of hands from the time you spend at the actual tables, as wacky and counter-intuitive as that sounds. It's natural to want to approach each hand in a logical fashion while at the tables, to slowly take in what data points you have, to determine your own table image, to work through the possibilities in your head, and to then finally act.

And I can't say that the approach is "wrong", because it obviously isn't. I'm just realizing that for my own personal monkey self, it's sometimes dangerous, as it leads to all sorts of other interior monologues, such as "How the hell can you call with that?" or "What the fuck is the point of playing with people who cap with 84o, then cap every street, only to runner runner a straight to crack my aces, I might as well be playing blackjack..." or "That'll teach you to check-raise me with a flush draw, stupid lemur." Your personal mileage will obviously vary, but I usually find an inverse relationship in my own results, based on the amount of dialogue. The more I talk (either internally or yelling at the monitor) the poorer my results; the less I talk, the better.

A much simpler way of saying all this is that if your best choices are to raise or fold, just pick one. You've usually got at least a 50% chance of being right. Trust that you know how to play winning poker, that your hard work has enabled you to develop winning poker instincts. Don't second guess yourself. Take your best shot and immediately move on to the next hand, the next shot, whatever the results are. Whatever happens will happen.

When you're done, analyze the hell out of things. Find the bets you missed and the ways you need to improve. Ask all of those questions that you'd typically ask and ponder at the table. Find spots where you're making -EV decisions, on a regular basis. Find enough to convince yourself that you need to react differently, until that's your auto-pilot reaction. Tweak the hell out of the auto-pilot system until it works and you have faith in it. Then engage it and sit down and play some poker. Rinse and repeat.

And yeah, I know, any talk of "auto-pilot" and "whatever" and "instincts" is immediately going to cause some gnashing of teeth, as that's not what poker is "supposed" to be. We're supposed to be playing a game of skill that is a rich tapestry of of first, second, and third level thinking, that takes years and years and years to master all of its infinite subtleties, yet the attempt is doomed to failure, as poker is an unconquerable, majestic beast in the end that will always foil us, time after time.

Well, guess what? It ain't. Not LHE, at least. Learn to manipulate a set number of situations that frequently occur, stay within your bankroll, work hard to make sure that you're making +Ev decisions, and you can consistently beat it, like a drum. It really doesn't have to be as hard as we want to make it.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Detach Me, Baby

Last night was pretty much a wash on the poker front, despite getting up fairly big early on when I flopped nut flushes in back to back hands and no one seemed to believe me. Proceeded to bleed most of it back, though, before finally shutting down the pokering machine to hang out with ScurvyWife and watch Lost and other silly tv.

It's been interesting of late, as far as stepping back a bit from poker more than a few times over the last few months, and then easing back into playing. I can't say that it has produced any grand epiphanies, or even lesser epiphanies, but I do seem to be approaching it with a slightly different flavor of detachment, which seems to be helping.

Detachment and poker is an odd thing. You can't shake a stick at poker literature without smacking the advice of "View the chips as chips, not money, and play with no fear." Which is very good advice, indeed, and I have absolutely no quibbles with that.

You'll also encounter the advice of not being results-oriented around every corner, too, as far as detaching yourself from the outcome of any single hand, focusing instead on the bigger picture and of making the correct decision, each and every time you have to make a decision, and letting the results sort themselves out over time. Repeat to yourself, over and over, that you'll be a winner in the long run if you consistently make +EV decisions. Again, great advice, no quibbles with that.

Both of the above are pretty obvious conclusions and easy enough to absorb because they don't really conflict with other things we'd like to believe about the great game of poker. They jive perfectly with other goals such as improving our game, learning, readying, studying, and striving to make +EV decisions and avoid -EV decisions.

Lately, though, I seem to be trending towards an even broader sense of detachment. And I can't necessarily recommend it, as it's sort of fatalistic, but I'm beginning to wonder if it's a natural (perhaps necessary) evolution of the idea of detachment.

And, really, it's a pretty simple state of detachment, capable of being summed up in a single, solitary word: whatever.

Crack my set of aces with J8o when you hang in there to catch a runner runner straight? Whatever.

Cap with 25o because you think it's funny, only to crack my kings when you river two pair? Whatever.

Call off all your tournament chips with third pair, when facing two all-ins in front of you, only to spike a third 5 on the river? Whatever.

And yes, indeed, that's a close cousin to not being results oriented. But it's a bit different, as it doesn't involve repeating the mantra that "skillful play will win over time, skillful play will win over time, skillful play will win over time." It's a bit more nihilistic.

Whatever. Poker involves skill, but it also involves a large mesaure of complete and utter randomness. I'll focus hard on each and every hand, and make the best decision I can possibly make, and strive to only play when I can do so optimally, but to a certain extent I'm deluding myself by pretending that study and experience will dilute the random nature of the cards. It will, to a certain extent, but we eventually hit a wall where the best response might very well be "Whatthefuckever", moving on to the next hand without even a millisecond of cogitating on something that's ultimately uncogitatable, due to the nature of the game.

And that's true when you win a hand, as well as when you lose. Rake a huge pot when the lemur with an overpair insists on ignoring the possible flush that you obviously have? Whatever. Bend over the donkey, yet again, that constantly overvalues top pair? Whatever. Constantly steal from the BB who folds way too many hands? Whatever.

In some ways, it's a depressing state to reach. It takes some of the joy from playing poker, if you view it as an exercise in mashing buttons, that you can steer in the direction of personal profit, more often than not, but also one that's largely dictated by randomly generated pixels in the end. It's much more exciting and envigorating to imagine that all of our skillful plays, our stop n' gos, our expertly timed bluff check-raises are what will truly separate us from the masses, that all of our thought and study is what defines us as winning players.

I'm just not sure that is a reality, though. More and more it seems that I make the most money when I find the best tables and absolutely bash on weak players when the opportunity arises. That requires the least amount of skill and thought yet produces the best results. Target, isolate, and bash, over and over and over. And then do it some more.

Or, you know, whatever.

Bored Lemming = Me

1. What is the biggest mistake people make at a NL table?

Overvaluing top pair.

2. What is the biggest mistake people make at a Limit table?


3. Why do you play poker?

Probably 80% as a way to make extra income, 20% because I enjoy it.

4. If you weren't playing poker, what would you be doing?

Probably something useful.

5. What is your favorite poker book and why?

For poker learnin', probably both of Harrington's books.

6. Who is your favorite poker player and why?

Ted Forrest. He seems to have the perfect mix of gamble, brains, and balls, with none of the ego and posturing that so often accompanies those attributes in the poker world.

7. Which poker player do you dislike the most and why?

Antonio Esfandiari. The reason why is because he's Antonio Esfandiari.

8. Do your coworkers know about your blog?

I tried to heep the poker blog largely hidden from friends and co-workers, but eventually let the cat out of the bag over the years. Part of my wishes it was still completely on the down low, but knowing that people who know me read it keeps me honest, which is likely a good thing.

9. What is the most you have won in a cash game or MTT (both live and online)?

Cash game session: Live $300, Online $6,000
MTT: Live $3,200, Online $2,000

10. What is the most you have lost in a cash game or in one day total (both live and online)?


11. Who was your first poker blog read?

The wee dude that drinks Guinness

12. What satisfies you more, your aces holding up for a big pot or a bluff working for a big pot?

Aces holding up for a big pot.

13. Why do you blog?

Because it's there?

14. Do you read blogs from an RSS reader like bloglines or do you visit each blog?

Bloglines, all the way.

15. Would you rather play poker for a living than do what you currently do for a living?

I don't really want to play poker for a living, at all, but it'd be better than my current job.

16. Do you wear a tin foil hat on occasion?

An inside-out tin foil hat, thank you very much.

17. If you had to pin it down to one specific trait, what does a great poker player have (or do) that separates them from an average player?

Perseverance. Or perverseness. Pick your poison.

18. Is Drizz the coolest person on the planet for naming his baby Vegas?


19. What is your primary poker goal and are you close to accomplishing it?

I'm bad about goals, but I wanted to play in some WSOP events this year, which I'll do, so sure, that works for me.

20. What is your primary online site and why?

I play on approximately 182,172 sites so I can't claim one as primary.

21. What site do you dislike and why?

Party is just about the most fucked-up of an organization as possible, so they win my vote for most disliked site.

Non-US Casino Bonuses

Being a damn Yankee, I've pretty much ignored some of the decent casino bonuses out there that don't allow US players to sign up, as they're pretty much off my radar for obvious reasons.

No reason not to keep a list running for those of you lucky enough not to live in the US, though, so I've been working on just that. Below are the ones I've found so far, but I'm likely missing some, so feel free to leave comments with other good ones that you might know about and I'll add them to the list.

Non-US Casino Bonuses

Victor Chandler Casino: £250 bonus credited after wagering £5,000, BJ allowed, can only do one casino in Victor Chandler group)

BetDirect: 100% up to 25, 1250 WR, BJ allowed

BetPlayandWin: 100% up to 20, 10x deposit WR, BJ allowed

Harrods Casino: 100% up to 50, 20x bonus WR, BJ allowed (This is part of the Kismet group, and the typically allow you to sign up for and claim a bonus for only one of their three casinos.)

Red Lounge Casino: 100% up to 50, 20x deposit WR, BJ allowed (This is part of the Kismet group, and the typically allow you to sign up for and claim a bonus for only one of their three casinos.)

PrivateCasino: 100% up to 75, 20x deposit WR, BJ allowed (This is part of the Kismet group, and the typically allow you to sign up for and claim a bonus for only one of their three casinos.)

Ladbrokes: 50% up to 100, 4x deposit WR, for BJ bets must be 10/hand or better

Paddy Power Casino: 100% up to 75, 25x bonus WR, no BJ allowed

Playboy Casino: 100% up to 50, 12x deposit WR, for BJ bets must be 10/hand or better

Virgin Casino: 100% up to 50, 10x deposit WR, no BJ

Page 3 Casino: £250 bonus credited after wagering £5,000, BJ allowed, can only do one casino in Victor Chandler group)

GetMinted: 50% up to 500, 40x bonus WR, No BJ

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sabina Ain't No Shana

Still rolling along nicely in the 10/20 short games. I've said it approximately 172,182 times, but my biggest poker leak remains the inability to cut short losing sessions and just walk away from the magic computating box. If I look back through PokerTracker results for the last year or so I keep seeing, over and over and over, the same pattern of many solid, positive sessions strung together, only to be wiped out by one long, disastrous session where nothing goes right and I get stubborn and keep ramming my donkey head against the barn door.

Apparently Courtney Friel's WPT run is over after one year, as she's reportedly being replaced by Sabina Gadecki<, who's biggest claim to fame seems to be that she was once Miss Western Massachusetts. Why they got rid of Shana to begin with, I do not know.

ScurvyWife is running off to Galveston next weekend, so I'll hopefully have plenty of degenerate time to myself. I'm tempted to give some WSOP Main Event satellites a shot, as I'd planned to invest some cash in those but just haven't gotten around to it. I'd been thinking about buying into an additional smaller event when we're out in Vegas in late June, but I might just sink the ~$1,500 into trying to get a seat into the big show instead.

Monthly Casino Bonuses

I've had a lot of requests for a list of monthly casino bonuses, so, lo and behold, here you go. I'll keep it updated moving forward and add any new ones I find. If you know of other good monthly bonuses not listed, leave a comment and I'll add them to the list.

I know lots of poker folks still cast a dubious eye towards the casino bonuses in general, but they really can boost your poker bankroll, especially if you stick to the cashable ones and are disciplined enough to grind them out.

Cashable Monthly Casino Bonuses that Allow Blackjack

InterCasino: 100% up to 100, 2,500 WR

Littlewoods: £25 bonus added automatically after wagering £625

UKBetting: £25 bonus added automatically after wagering £500

BetFred: 25% up to £50, WR of 25x bonus + deposit ($7,500 for max bonus).

WillHill: 100% up to £25, £800 WR

32Red: 100% up to 50, 1500 WR (Note: to be elgibile you have to get an email from them offering the monthly bonus and then contact live support and get the bonus credited after depositing into your account.)

Betsson: 30% up to 30, 750 WR

Casino Euro: 30% up to 30, 750 WR

Cherry Casino: 30% up to 30, 750 WR

Omni Casino: $100 bonus after wagering $4,000, $8,000 WR if playing BJ

Eurobet: 50% up to 50, 800 WR (Note: you need a code to get this bonus and it changes each month, so check the site for the current code. Eurobet also recently banned US players.)

Cowboy Casino: 25% up to $200, 25x bonus+deposit WR weekly 15% bonuses, 10x bonus+deposit WR (Bonus maximums depend on Players Club level, check site for details.)

Ritz Club: 100% up to £50, £2,000 WR (Ritz Club doesn't accept US players.)

BetDirect: 100% up to £25, £1250 WR, BJ allowed (Doesn't accept US players.)

SportsCafe offers a 100% up to 25 monthly bonus, with a WR of 25XD+B. Software is Boss Media, which is very, very slow, and you need a PIN that they snail mail to you before you can cash out. You also can't get the monthly bonus the very first month you sign up, just the signup bonus.

The next group all offer 100% up to $100 monthly bonuses. WR is 10x bonus+deposit, but blackjack, baccarat, and video poker only counts towards 1/6th of the wagering requirement. Table games in general count towards 1/2 of the WR, with slots counting 100%.

I haven't done these myself, so any experiences would be welcome. It might be best to play these as a semi-sticky bonus and to set a target to try to double up (or more) first, as you'll be giving back some profits when clearing the WR, whether you do it at BJ ($12,000 WR) or a lower HA table game like War or Pai Gow.

Cocoa Casino: 100% up to $100
DaVinci's Gold: 100% up to $100
Paradise8: 100% up to $100
This is Vegas: 100% up to $100

Sticky Monthly Casino Bonuses (If you don't know the difference between a sticky and cashable bonus, read this first. Some of the sites below allow blackjack, others do not, check site for current terms)

Acropolis: 100% up to $50

Europa: 100% up to $100

Casino del Rio: 50% up to $50

Hammer's Casino: 50% up to $50

Cameo Casino: 50% up to $50

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Welcome Back, Mojo

The nice run at 10/20 short continued last night, booking my first +$1,000 day in quite awhile. Sometimes I wonder if I overthink things (well, wonder is the wrong word, as I know I do), as poker really isn't that difficult when you get down to brass tacks. Especially against opponents like this:

10/20 6 max LHE, I'm in the BB with J10h. CO is very bad and the reason I'm sitting at the table. Folds to CO, who open-raises, folds to me, and I call.

Flop is 7c 9s 10h. I check, CO bets, I check-raise, CO calls.

Turn is 3h. I check, CO bets, I check-raise, CO calls.

River is 8s. I check, CO bets, I check-raise, CO calls.

CO rolls over Kd2c and loses.

The 6 max phenomenon is an interesting one, though, as far as the general trend of 6 max becoming much more popular in recent months. The attraction is pretty obvious, as far as more action for the action junkies, but I also wonder if part of the popularity is slightly more complicated, related to keeping bad players afloat longer.

It's a little counter-intuitive, as you'd guess at first glance that bad players would bust out faster at 6 max, given that they're faced with many more decisions per hour, so their weaknesses in decision-making are exposed and magnified much more rapidly. And that has to be true, but the flip side is that in many cases bad players (especially over-aggressive ones that play too many hands and play them too hard) are actually playing much more correctly at 6 max, for no reason other than the structure itself. Cut the total numbers of players in the game and raw aggression becomes more valuable, especially in the hands of someone who doesn't "know any better" and ignores assorted warning signs.

Here's a hand that somewhat illustrates the above. It's also a hand that I play like a semi-donkey, so you get the added pleasure of witnessing that as well:

10/20 6 max LHE, I'm on the button with JdJh. UTG open-raises, folds to me and I 3-bet, SB folds, BB caps, UTG calls, I call. BB and UTG are both pretty terrible and over-aggressive, so their range is pretty much anything.

Flop is 2c 8h 9h. BB checks, UTG bets, I raise, BB 3-bets. UTG calls and the action is on me.

Honestly, I should likely just fold here, despite my overpair. Even if I put one of the crazies on overcards and the other on a flush draw (which is pretty much best case scenario here), I'm not that far ahead, and both opponents love to bash, so who knows how expensive it will get to continue in the hand. One of them likely has an overpair to my jacks, as even crazies get dealt big hands sometimes, and pre-flop action seemed to indicate that, so I'm likely drawing to two outs. I've watched both opponents bash away to the river with K high in previous hands, though, so I manage to talk myself out of folding in what's a pretty nice pot.

Turn is Qd. BB bets, UTG folds (?), and I decide to get jiggy and raise, hoping to buy a free showdown, with every intention of folding to a re-raise.

BB re-raises. I dwell for awhile then go "Hee haw" and call. I know, I know. It's a big pot. I'm a donkey. BB is a confirmed lemur. What can I say.

River is 3s. BB bets, I call. BB rolls over A5c and a fat pot is pushed my way.

In retrospect, that's obviously pretty poor play for BB holding A5c. Spewing chips like crazy. Next stop, Bustville, population 172,182,172.

But I very nearly folded that hand, and should have folded, in likely two different spots. Which is obviously results-oriented thinking, in every way, but the lurking point is that the BB will likely last much longer playing that way in 6 max than if he were playing at a full ring game. He'll rake enough extra pots via brute bludgeoning at 6 max to keep him at the tables for awhile, likely longer than he'd last at full ring where the same tactics work less often. He's still a crazy, in the end, and will go broke consistently playing that way at either 6 max or full ring, but in many cases he gets more mileage for his chips at 6 max.

Have some bonusey type stuff to post soon that I've been working on, so stay tuned for that.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Free Money is Goot

Pretty crazy weekend, as far as hightailing it to Dallas and back, along with much running around and what-not. We went to the Dallas Zoo, which was fun, but a little disappointing, as half the zoo seemed to be under construction or inexplicably missing, umm, animals to look at. Hung out until the wee hours with some of ScurvyWife's friends, drank some drinks, then got back to the in-laws and passed out.

I did play some poker, though *gasp*, as I managed to win some nice loot in a referral contest PokerClubEurope was running, which included a freeroll for winners, as well as entries for people they referred. I was also playing a €40 MTT at the same time when the freeroll started, eventually cashing for €400 or so combined between the two. I'd like to take credit due to my mad poker skillz but it was more a matter of timely activation of luckbox powers than anything.

I also had a nice run at 10/20 short at Party, clearing the most recent reload bonus. The shorthanded tables seem to be my crack, as I'm still a net loser in the games but I sit and play and can't imagine how that's possible, given the general level of skill on display at some juicy tables.

Trying to dig out from under assorted piles o' work, likely more babblings later...

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Friday Ramble

Sweet merciful Jebus, thank you for letting me telecommute on Fridays again, as telecommuting is a wonderful, good thing that fills me with the happy.

I believe the Earth has tilted on its axis. I had to contact Intertops about a locked account and not only did I perfectly understand the customer service representative, but they applied common sense and rectified the problem with a minimum of hassle, solving the problem in a matter of 15 seconds. I'm still reeling from this unexpected development, as I expected to wade through the outer rings of outsourced support Hell for hours.

PokerStars is running a double FPP promotion from May 12-May 21, so if you're looking to rack up FPPs or have any uncleared bonus money, that'd be a dang good time to do it.

Party has also added another round of account-specific reload bonuses to accounts, so hit up your account and see if they Reload Bonus fairy left you anything nice.

Slowly been adding more sites to the big honking B2B poker bonus list, as it's crazy how many of those keep springing up. Makes me curious exactly how much it costs to open a skin on the network, as I can't imagine it's all that expensive, given how rapidly the skins are popping up the last few months.

The degenerate challenge got a wee bit stalled just short of the 6K mark, but I'll probably wade back into it shortly. I'm making a big sweep through every single frickin' casino site I know of, checking bonus terms and what-not, and I've already dug up a few decent ones I didn't know about. I'll also probably get back on the poker horse shortly, so hopefully I can make some more degenerate headway.

Heading up to Dallas for the weekend, to spend Mother's Day with the in-laws. Can't say I'm exactly thrilled but it'll be good to get out of the house and we're going to hit up the Dallas Zoo on Saturday. I've snuck out of making the trip the last few times ScurvyWife has gone, claiming mucho busyness (true), but it's time to bite the bullet and put in an appearance this time. Get along fine with the in-laws, it's just more a matter of not relishing the idea of sacrificing my whole weekend to driving back and forth and getting next to nothing done around the house or on assorted endeavors.

Note to investing self: you're overweight in energy stocks. Do something about this.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Hee Haw

Played in a satellite tournament at Bodog last night, as part of a series of tournaments they're running for affiliates, culminating in a freeroll for a WSOP Main Event seat. The top 30% get points in each tournament, with the top 30% at the end of four or five qualifying tournaments getting a seat in the final freeroll for the Main Event seat.

I managed to play solid poker for the majority of the tournament, then was seized by the uncontrollable urge to act like a donkey and lose all of my chips in three consecutive hands, folding 1010 preflop to a short stack to my left who came over the top of my raise with what was very likely a worse hand, calling off most of my chips the next hand to the same player on a Q83 flop with 55 (he had 66 and shoved on the flop), then lumping it all in with AQo as a shorty and running into QQ.

Hee haw.

On the bright side (and pardon the petty gloating), I managed to get out of CRYP yesterday at the absolute high of the day, basically doubling up the chunk of change I'd invested in options. I usually muck up the timing on trades like that but managed to get out in the morning before it bled back a chunk of the gains throughout the day. I'm still long CRYP, as I think we'll see 35 within 3-6 months, but I was more than happy to book a nice gain from the options and plow it back into something else.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Investing and Poker: Entry and Exit Points

Bless you, Cryptologic. I take back all the mean things I said about you.

I'm still playing little poker, but I'd by lying if I said it was completely out of my head. At the same time, I've been spending much more time researching stocks and generally immersing myself in the world of investing. And I can't help but see lots of parallels between the two endeavors.

Buy Low, Sell High

Everyone has heard the trusty investing saw: buy low and sell high. Oversimplified, sure, but it's hard to argue with. When we invest in something, we're taking a position with a belief that it will appreciate in value in the future. Usually we take that position based on research, knowledge, experience, and/or the general belief that we're more skillful than the average person in evaluating and recognizing value.

When we take an investment position, we're evaluating the existing data and making what we believe to be is a +EV investment. Does that mean we'll make money off of every investment, even if we're the most knowledgable, skillful investor in the history of investing? Of course not. The biggest obstacle is that the market is never static, and conditions always change. A great investment in the morning could be decimated in the afternoon when management is indicted for an accounting scandal, or a company might announce they'd just lost a major customer.

You also simply may not be as skilled as you think you are at determining the expected value of an investment. You might overlook things that savvier investors would see, causing them to pass on the investment. You might choose to blindly follow the advice of others, taking positions based on what prominent analysts and investing gurus tell you to do.

In many ways, pre-flop play in poker is exactly the same as investing. When we decide to call or raise, we're taking a position in the hand, one that we believe has a good likelihood of producing a profit. We believe that the two cards we hold (plus our ability to play them well) will allow us to show a net profit in excess of what we invest to participate in the hand.

Does that always happen? Of course not. We might wisely and happily invest out entire stack with AA, only to see it lose to 72o when conditions change drastically on the hammerlicious flop of 777. Every session we'll play we will make very smart investments that cost us money, when conditions change.

The converse is true as well. We'll also make poor decisions, like calling a huge raise pre-flop with 97h, and will show a very large profit when the flop is 6h 8h 10h. Poor investment decisions can ultimately be very profitable, just as wise, informed decisions can be costly.

Our goal over time, of course, is to avoid poor decisions, and to continually make wise investments, to put ourselves in the best possible situation to profit, again and again and again. To do that we have to ignore the results and focus on making the best pre-flop decisions that we can, over and over and over. If we do that on a continuous basis, we'll be buying low and selling high more often than we'll be selling at a loss.

The key thing to remember is that until the last card is dealt and the hands are shown, nothing is set in stone. No matter how strong your hand was pre-flop or how far ahead you were on the turn, until your position is liquidated and you're stacking the profits, you've only got a paper gain. You're not "owed" anything until it's finalized, until you've closed out the position. Don't start counting your money until the hand is over (or buy that new Porsche based on the value of your unexercised stock options at work), or fall in love with an investment when the conditions have changed dramatically, and every signal is screaming that your hand is no longer good.

Stop Losses

In the world of equities, stop losses (whether mental or actually keyed in) are tools to keep you from losing your shirt on any one invetsment. You do all of the necessary research and decide to take a position that you believe will appreciate in value. You're aware, though, that not every investment goes up. You're also aware of the fact that from a psychological standpoint, it's easy to get married to an invetsment and to chase losses, remaining invested as the value drops lower and lower, hoping and praying that it'll recover and you'll erase the losses.

To counter that tendency, many investors set a stop loss order. This is a pre-determined point at which your position is automatically sold, at a loss. Its sole purpose is to protect you from losing too much in any one investment, limiting your losses to 10%, 15%, or whatever stop loss you set. It's designed to combat the tendency to hold onto poor investments for too long and to preserve your capital. As long as you preserve the bulk of your capital, you're able to continue to make wise, informed investments which will allow you to not only recoup the 10% you lost, but much more.

The parallels to poker are pretty obvious, and don't need much elaborating. It's very tempting to chase losses after a bad session, to jump up to higher stakes, to play more aggressively than you know you should. We've all seen advice to avoid the above behavior yet we've likely all done it, at some point or another.

It's hard to argue that stop-losses are valuable in poker, though. Granted, you need to give yourself enough room to account for normal variance in a session, but preservation of capital (your bankroll) should trump everything else. Tilting and losing a huge chunk of your bankroll is actually more destructive even than it appears on the surface, as the erosion of your working capital will continue to cost you money, each and every day, long after the disastrous tilt session, as it continues to depress your future earnings potential.

In short, love thy bankroll, treat it well, pet it and hug it and call it George, and do everything you can to preserve the bulk of it, even if it means setting arbitrary stop-losses.

Diversify Your Portfolio

Successful investors never put all their money in one stock, and most avoid even putting all of their money in one sector or investment vehicle. The variance can be brutal and your risk is ruin is far too high if you don't diversify.

It's a bit of a stretch, but poker does share some similarities. Your primary investment is going to be your play at the tables, as it's where you the bulk of your capital is going to be employed. While you might argue that you should diversify there, and play LHE, NLHE, Stud, Omaha, Razz, and Triple Draw equally well, in order to play with the fishiest players, wherever they're sitting, I honestly think that's a stretch, as the vast bulk of games are at NLHE/LHE tables.

You can, though, diversify your poker-related income. Rakeback and poker bonuses are obvious ways to accomplish that, as well as hitting up the +EV casino bonuses. Rakeback can definitely ease the blow when things don't go well at the tables, and many of the juicy casino bonuses are simply free money, being extended to you, for very little initial investment of capital.

Invest with a Target

Successful investors almost always have an entry point and an exit point. They don't simply buy stock in a company with the idea of "Der, I hope it goes up and I make mad cash, der". They invest with a target price in mind, at which point (barring material changes), they'll sell and book a profit. That doesn't mean they follow that plan to the letter, due to changing market conditions, just that part of the investment process is picking both an entry and an exit point.

Poker is pretty similar, on both a micro and macro level. Winning poker players think past the immediate decision in front of them, considering the implied odds they're being offered, the inability of a particular opponent to ever release an overpair, and myriad other details. They examine each hand with an eye to present and future value, and, on the fly, determine what they're willing to pay to continue as well as what their price target might be.

You should strive to not only calculate what a good entry price is, but to think past the present strength of your hand and to cast an eye towards just how much value you can extract, based on the board and your opponents. It's not quite enough to say "I'll limp if it's cheap enough and hope I flop huge hand" if you also haven't considered the odds and likelihood of getting paid off, if you hit your hand, and whether the expected profit is worth the risk of calling.

On a macro level, many successful poker players have goals that go beyond "Win lots of money". The goals take many forms (move up in limits, to win X amount of dollars by Y date, to become proficient at a new game, to win a seat into a major tournament), but their purpose are to serve as targets or exit points, so that they can measure and gauge progress. It doesn't mean that you can't be successful simply playing to win money, as some people are, just that many players are more successful when they analyze the situation and set targets.

Chasing Losses

Investors (especially traders) often make this mistake. They lose money on a particular stock and they can't let it go, believing that it somehow "owes" them money, and they continue to take positions in it, largely acting on emotion and not logic. They ignore much more promising potential investments and instead keep forcing themselves back on whatever stock they feel has wronged them. In its worst form, they'll exacerbate the situation by trading much more speculative and risky vehicles such as options, determined to get back all of the money they're "owed", but more often than not only succeeding in digging a deeper hole.

Poker players fall prey to this, too, each and every day. They play long past the point where they're bringing their A game, trying to get unstuck, often targeting a specific player who has been sucking out on them and "owes" them money. They take more and more risks, letting the desire to get back to even overwhelm the smart, savvy decisions that they'd normally make.

Once you've lost capital and closed out a position (or mucked your losing hand), it's gone. It's no longer yours. You have absolutely no claim to it. All you can do is to move on to the next investment or hand and to put the past behind you, as you have absolutely no claim to the lost capital. Use your remaining capital to recoup your loss, by making wise investment decisions. If you're not in the frame of mind to accomplish that, wait until you are.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Straight Beats a Flush, Right?

I've remained largely poker-free for the last few days, and seem to be experiencing no ill effects. I did play a few freeroll satellites over the weekend at assorted B2B sites, burning some of my accumulated VIP points as entries. I also snuck in some Peep Sex at Full Tilt but got no love.

Thank Jebus the Suns sent the Lakers packing. Kobe, you're a great player. One of the best ever. All you have to do is keep your mouth shut and play, and you'd be universally adored. (Well, and not rape women). That's it. Simple subtraction. Yet you insist on preening and pouting and prima donna-ing, and doing everything but keeping your mouth shut and playing great basketball.

My thoughts on playoff basketball from last night: I hope Chris Kaman doesn't let his latent Neandertal genes express themselves and eat Steve Nash, 'cause Nash is fun to watch.

Still sweating out the CRYP options, as I was hoping for a little more follow through from the bounce last Friday. Monkey boy Jim Cramer suddenly decided to start touting one of my Kazakhstan oil plays on his show (Transmeridian Exploration - AMEX:TMY), which produced a nice pop this monring, but I'd almost have preferred if he'd just kept his mouth shut. Cramer doesn't exactly have the best record with his picks, and his initial recommendations usually lead to a lot of churn and volatility, as his monkey legions pile in and pile out.

Received out merit increases for the year at HyperMegaGlobalCorp. 4% sounds nice until you see the math and what it means, broken down by pay period, and then suddenly it's difficult not to feel like a rat, running through the same maze, over and over and over, for an ultimate reward that turns out to be a single, solitary peanut.

Sort of like, you know, a rat eating a peanut...

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Horses and Boxers

Managed to come out pretty well in the Kentucky Derby this year, which is a nice change from years past. I lost exactly $0, buoyed by the decision to not bet on sporting events that I have no business betting on.

I did, however, throw some money on Mayorga at +255 at Pinnacle. I was going to sit this one out, as who the hell knows what Mayorga will do in any given fight, but De La Hoya hasn't shown much of late, and there's usually a lot of dumb money that goes on De La Hoya due to his popularity.

Edit: Or, you know, dumb money like me who bet on Mayorga, only to see Oscar thoroughly beat him down. Der.

I will not bet on boxing and horse, I will not bet on boxing and horses, I will not bet on boxing and horses...

Friday, May 05, 2006

No Mas, Rain Gods

Nothing like spending quality time with the Shop-Vac last night, sucking up water out of the living room carpet, after we got approximately 172 inches of rain in about twenty minutes that the Thunderstorm Rain Gods blessed us with. Sort of an ongoing battle we've had with the French drains in the back yard, that work well under reasonable conditions but throw their Frenchified arms up in the air, screaming for help, when we get massive amounts of rain in a short time span. At least the Phoenix/Lakers game was on, so it wasn't a total waste.

Many thanks for all the comments on the hand posted yesterday. I always think it's interesting posting hands like that, as you typically get back just about as many different ways to play it as you do comments. Not much to add, as far as my take, other than what I babbled about yesterday. A turn check-raise is probably poor, and a river bet is likely better than a check.

One interesting tangent from the hand itself touched on in the comments involves the meta-gameish consideration of the effects of passively playing a hand like that in relation to future blind steals and/or raises from the button. (And yeah, I do agree that some of these discussions are silly, when you start inserting the "meta" card, and that it's usually a lot better to just ignore all that crap and just play solid poker.)

I think that prevailing poker wisdom would argue that playing the hand from yesterday passively from your BB versus the button is bad because it encourages him to run over you. The theory is that if you aggressively fire back and take charge with marginal hands (instead of check-calling), he won't pimp your blinds so often.

And that's very reasonable, and I have no real argument with it in theory. You see that logic in assorted poker literature and in forums a good bit, so there's obviously a lot of value in that line of thinking.

Lately, though, I've been questioning it, and that hand serves as a pretty good example. One thing lost in the play-marginal-hands-aggressively-and-back-him-off-in-the-future line is that you have to go to showdown, for the button to even know that you were aggressively taking charge with your A6o. Which happens, obviously, but not that often in spots like these, especially if you're going to throw a check-raise in there to back him off. If he folds to a check-raise on the flop, for all he knows you flopped a set of 4s or a junky two pair.

Aside from that, I'm not sure that I buy into the general premise that I want to discourage the button from attempting to steal. It's likely a matter of personal preference and comfort level, but I really don't playing with buttons that are steal monkeys to my BB. Not so much if they're a good, tricky opponent as was the case in the actual hand, but more so when they are your garden variety over-aggressive player that likes to steal all the time.

Those opponents are particularly frustrated by the passive check-call lines, as you can almost see the steam coming out of their ears, muttering "I can't believe you didn't bet your ace, you stupid donkey." And playing lots of hands heads-up versus a frustrated, overly aggressive opponent can be pretty +EV, despite the fact that you're out of position.

Yes, indeed, encouraging blind steals is a double-edged sword. You have to check-fold many flops when it misses you. That's not fun, especially when there's a chance that he's got 35o and you're actually way ahead. But you also stand to rake some nice pots, as many opponents stop playing solid poker, agnostic to everything else, and start targeting you individually, trying to punish you for being so passive and weak.

Another side benefit is that taking such a passive line also buys you some fold equity later, if the same situation arises and you bluff check-raise when the flop misses you but the board is scary. It's pretty hard for a good, aware opponent to continue in the hand, after watching you so passively play the first hand, as your move screams monster hand coming from someone with so much sand in their nether regions.

But yeah, much babbling about something simple. Play good poker and everything else falls into place.

My CRYP May $25 Calls are actually showing some signs of life after the commpany announced that it had renewed its contract with InterCasino/InterPoker through 2012, which is its largest customer. Ritz Club decided not to renew but they account for less than 2% of sales. Earnings are coming out on Monday which will pretty much make or break me on these options. There's a pretty hefty short position in CRYP right now, which could make things really interesting, especially if they report blowout earnings.

I'm actually thinking about buying some of the May $30 Calls, as they're currently at .30, which is obviously a reach with the stock trading at $25.07 a week into May, but not the worst speculative flyer to put a wee bit of money on, with the potential for good earnings and short covering.

I always find it fascinating that the people that claim to care the least about approval or validation are often the ones that try hardest to gain it and crave it the most, even if it means lashing out at anyone in the general vicinity, as any attention is better than being ignored.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Slipping the Surly Bonds of Poker

It occured to me belatedly that, umm, this is kind of a bad time to completely shut down the poker engine, as I'm playing in a dang ol' WSOP LHE event in late June. So I'm still likely going to take a break from the tables a bit, but that doesn't mean I can't dig back into my stash of poker books, or review assorted donk plays that I've been making, or anything like that.

Here's a situation that's plagued me for quite awhile. Any and all feedback appreciated, even if it's of the Der, you suck, variety.

You're at a full LHE table in the BB, with A6o. It folds all the way around to the button, who open-raises. The button is a good, tricky player, very aggressive but not an idiot and more than capable of laying down hands when need be. SB folds and the action is on you.

A7 is more than enough to call in a possible steal situation, so folding isn't an option. Call or raise?

I decided to call. Yes, I have an A, yes he could be stealing here with a huge range of hands that I'm ahead of, and yes, re-raising is almost always better than calling. The problem with raising is that if I flop an ace and bet out, our good opponent is going to simply respect my show and strength and fold, if he doesn't have an ace. It's hard to get paid off when you re-raise pre-flop and flop your ace. If he has a bigger ace, you get popped back but are unfortunately tied to the hand as you can't really fold top pair when it's heads-up, and end up calling down to the river.

If the flop misses me I'm obligated to follow through with a continuation bet. This is both good and bad, and the real crux of the dilemma of whether to call or re-raise pre-flop. The flop will also miss him a lot of the time and a continuation bet will take it down. Even if it doesn't I have A high, which is sometimes good enough in heads-up tussles like these involving a possible blind steal.

But I'm also going to get popped back a good portion of the time when I make a continuation bet, by a good, aggressive opponent with position, and he doesn't even need much of a hand to do it with.

The flop comes A J 4, rainbow. Check or bet?

Well, I flopped my ace, but see above. If I bet and he doesn't have an ace, he likely just folds. He also likely folds small/mid pairs, with two overcards out there. If he has an ace, he raises, and likely has a better kicker.

The only hands I'm ahead of that he might pop me back with are hands like KJ, QJ, maybe J10. The problem, though, is that I can't really extract full value from that situation, as I'm out of position and have to slow down first, for fear that he has a bigger ace if he plays back at me.

Odds are I'm ahead, and I don't really mind giving free cards on that board. I decide to play it passively and see if he'll keep firing.

I check and button bets. Call or raise?

Sort of answered above, as far as how I'm playing this, but I tend to simply call in this spot. You're out of position and are either substantially ahead or substantially behind, and have a hand that's too good to fold to a re-raise. If the board isn't scary and a free card is unlikely to do harm, I tend to encourage him to keep firing by playing passively.

I call. Turn is 8, completing the rainbow. Check or bet?

I checked again. Yeah, I know, free cards galore, but not much is changing as far as the board or thought process. Way ahead or way behind, and a hand too good to fold to a raise if I bet. If the free cards give him a junky two pair with a crappy hand he was trying to steal with, so be it, I'll lose some pots that way. I'll also gain a lot of bets when he keeps making continuation bets in position, though, when he has the worst of it.

I check, button bets. Call or raise?

I called. But the more I ponder it, the less correct calling seems.

I think this is likely the crucial point where you can really argue for a raise. You potentially drive out middle/third pair and prevent him from overtaking you on the river and you don't hate a fold, as you've gotten him to put a few extra bets out there. If he's got a better hand, well, so be it, and you call his raise and check-call the river.

It seems schizophrenic, arguing early in the hand that you're either way ahead/way behind and don't want to face a raise or mind giving free cards, and then suddenly chunking that out the window and check-raising the turn. The difference, possibly, is that the extra BBs that have gone in by your turn decision make it imperative to take it down there, if at all possible, or at least charge him to see the river if he's behind.

But hell, I really don't know. That's why I'm posting this.

I call, river is a 3. Check or bet?

I check, as now we're in a pretty standard river situation where a bet accomplishes little, folding out worse hands and getting raised by better hands. You might argue that because I played my top pair so passively that a river bet actually has value here, as it's hard to imagine I have an ace, but I think it's pretty thin value, especially facing a good opponent.

I check, button checks behind with 97h, and my aces are good.

One thing I should note, as a slight bit of explanation, is that I wouldn't play the hand as passively if the board were more scary, as far as a potential straight/flush. I'd usually check-raise the flop if that were the case, despite the possibility of button having a better hand. What I'm really trying to get at here is how people hand situations like this, playing for small pots in heads-up/blind steal situations against a good opponent, when you have hand that's too good to fold to a raise but obviously a vulnerable one.

Many thanks in advance for any thoughts.

With all the poker talk out of the way:

Where's my damn peanut? I smell peanuts. PEANUT!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Boredom and Magic Peanut Trees

Finished up the TopRankedPoker signup bonus yesterday, for a whopping haul of -€32. And yes, sports fans, that includes the €600 bonus.

So how exactly did I manage to dump €632 over the span of a week or so, flexing my poker muscles at 2/4 and 3/6 LHE tables and 0.50/1 NL tables? I'm really not sure. Well, no, that's a lie. Got the bad end of the set over set stick a few too many times, but mainly I was playing without much enthusiasm or interest, playing for the sake of getting hands in, without much interest in the results.

That last one is the kicker, and one that I find a bit odd. I've been plenty burned out before and poker motivation has waxed and waned a good bit, but I'm usually competitive enough (and driven by monkey greed for money enough) to play pretty hard, when I sit down to play, whether I want to be sitting there or not.

But not so much lately. Lately it feel more like I'm sitting down, mashing buttons in a pattern that I've learned that, more often than not, results in a small window opening and a peanut rolling out of it. Except for the times when I mash the buttons in the same exact pattern and get an electric shock instead, and no peanut.

I mash the buttons and mostly good things happen, if I mash them enough, but not always. And the difference between good and bad is often sheer randomness, and not so much an increase or decrease in the skill or frequency of button-mashing. I've continued to mash buttons because I like peanuts, and because I'm fairly good at the button-mashing, able to avoid the electric shock most of the time, but in the end all I have, even when successful, are a few more peanuts than I started with. And that's after spending a lot of time mashing buttons, instead of doing any other number of things.

And I like peanuts, don't get me wrong, but I'd much rather own a peanut tree (yeah, I know, but work with me here) and just go out and pick one, when I wanted a peanut. My motivation and interest, over time, is more towards doing what I need to do to own the peanut tree, as opposed to working at accumulating individual peanuts in ever-increasing amounts.

And the obvious answer is to take a break, and I probably will, and I'll more than likely find myself wanting to play poker again in the near future, but it is a bit of an odd feeling, just being outright bored with playing. Not frustrated, not burned out, but just completely and utterly bored with the game itself.

As far as lingering poker lessons, I think it's easy to underestimate just how small the advantage of the best players is in many games, and that you really need all of your ducks in a row, mentally and physically, to play your best. I've been prone to chalk up some poor runs over the last few months to variance and crazy monkey play, but in the end nearly all of it can be tied back to me, and my less than optimal mindset. A few bad turn decisions an hour can kill the expected profit of even the best players, wreaking even more havoc on those of us in the middling range.

It's easy to convince ourselves that we're fired up, ready to play our best, but that's likely pretty rarely true. Stressing over paying all of the bills by the end of the month? Not the best time to play poker. Yawning as you sit down and fire up the poker machine? Not the best time to play poker. Hiding in the office after arguing with the wife/husband/kids/rat? Not the best time to play poker.

It's more a matter of balance, methinks, than anything. And that should work itself into better shape in the future, as I've been getting more interested in the artsy-fartsy stuff I do, like welding and banging on copper, especially now that we're set up at home to monkey around with such stuff. Getting more freelance work is helping, too, as I'd like to look at poker more as a hobby than as an expected source of additional income each month. If I can shift that expecation to artsy-fartsy stuff I make + freelance work, then hopefully I can get back to playing poker when I feel like it, for the fun of playing.

Not much else exciting going on in Scurvy world. I've just about got the mini-foundry put together and will soon be doing Jebus knows what with molten aluminum in the backyard (insert maniacal laughter). Need to buy an argon/CO2 canister for the MIG welder and we'll be and running with that, too.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Stupid Crypto

Bad enough that I donked off some cash to the Cryptos on the degenerate side, but my CRYP options are looking pretty bleak, as the stock keeps tanking. I still think earnings will be good and it'll pop nicely but we're getting a little too far underwater for the May $25 calls to be anything but worthless. Win some, lose some, I suppose...

I'd had a few emails from bloggers also into stocks and investing and what-not, and thought I'd put up a forum at Kickered for assorted stock and money talk. No real plan for discussion, pretty much whatever goes if you're interested. You'll need to register for the fourms if you haven't, in order to be able to se discussion threads, but it's pretty easy and painless. I'll post some of current portfolio and other assorted stocks I watch later on, when I scrape together a little free time.

I think I need to recoup my money by getting John Daly hooked up with some online casino accounts. Apparently he's blown through $50-60 million playing $5,000 slots in Vegas. He claims to be getting it under control, though, and has a new plan of action:

He said he plans to start at the $25 slots in the casinos and set a "walkout loss number," which would tell him it's time to leave.

"If I make a little bit, then maybe I move up to the $100 slots or the $500 slots, or maybe I take it to the blackjack table," he wrote. "It's their money. Why not give it a shot, try to double it? And if I make a lot, I can ...

"Well, that's my plan."

Best of luck to you, Big John.

Monday, May 01, 2006

TopRankedPoker and RAF Bonus

Just wanted to post a quick update about TopRankedPoker (and other B2B sites) and the issue of doing the referral bonus at the same time you do a signup bonus.

Technically speaking, many B2B sites claim in their terms that you can't do both, and that it is one or the other. In some isolated cases that have cropped up very recently, sites have refused to pay out a signup bonus because a refer-a-frend (RAF) bonus was also claimed.

On the flip side, there are many, many accounts of successfully claiming both, even though the terms for many of the sites say you can just get one. I've personally cleared both at many sites and have always been paid out the signup bonus in addition to the RAF bonus, without a single hitch.

As long as you get the signup bonus confirmation when depositing, odds are very, very great that you'll get the bonus, even if you entered a referral for the RAF, too.

But since the ToprankedPoker one is such a large bonus, it may pay to be on the safe side on this one, and to make sure you're eligible for the signup bonus, if you signed up for both the RAF bonus and the 100% up to 600 signup bonus. Apparently there are threads on some forums out there with reports of support at TopRankedPoker, when asked directly if players can get both the RAF and signup bonus, replying that no, you can't.

Likely the best thing to do is to shoot support a generic email and to act confused and say that you can't see the signup bonus listed anywhere in the cashier, and that you wanted to confirm that you were eligible for the bonus and currently clearing it. Odds are that they'll respond and say Yep, you're good to go, and you'll have confirmation and all will be well.

There's an off chance that they'll say Nope, you claimed two bonuses and you can only claim one, but in the case that was emailed to me they said that but also told the player that they were allowing them to claim both bonuses.

Sorry for the hassle but this has only cropped up recently, as they'd been paying both bonuses in the past with nary a peep. Odds are you're good to go but I wanted to get the info out there in case people had signed up for both bonuses and were/would be concerned. It's not been an issue in the past and probably isn't an issue now but you never know.