Wednesday, January 30, 2008

End Times are Nigh! Brimstone Rains from the Sky! He's Posting on Consecutive Days!

As ghey as it sounds, I've kind of missed blogging lately. I can't say that I ever contributed much of import to the world from these pages, but I do sort of miss the halcyon days of yore when poker and blogging were both much fresher and exciting.

I'd have had much to say in the past about the Absolute/UB debacle that has slowly been unfolding of late, how it impacted the poker world as a whole, what players should be doing, what sites should be doing, etc. These days, well, I just can't help but largely shrug.

Part of that response is related to what Ftrain discusses here, as he's pretty much directly channeling me there, right down to being a Cheaty McCheaterpants in high school card games, at first for vengeful, funny reasons but later for personal gain. Where I diverge a bit is the present day; while I agree I'd never even consider cheating in any sort of regular home game, even if I knew there was 0% of being caught, I can't say the same for happy-fun scenarios I might concoct.

Would I rig the game if Donald Trump sat down and I knew, with 100% likelihood, that I could clean him out for, oh, say $5 million large, with 0% risk whatsoever? Well, umm, of course I would. You wouldn't? Really? What if you were sitting with Osama Bin Laden instead? Tom Cruise? Michael Vick?

You likely get my drift. It's pretty easy to argue that a lot of our evolutionary success over time is due to flexible moral compasses, as it's not at all hard to adjust your viewpoint so that grabbing what's not yours isn't a stretch whatsoever, and just what any reasonable monkey in your shoes would do.

Is that babbling meant as an excuse and a free pass for the alleged shenigans at Absolute and UB? Not at all. What's apparently been going on there is pretty terrible and the last thing the online poker world needs right now. But I can't really feel shocked or outraged. I think it'd be more shocked if such a story had NEVER emerged from the world of online poker, as far as super-user accounts, visible hole cards, management cover-ups, the whole nine yards.

I think we'd all like to believe that we're slightly in love with the romantic notion of honorable gamblers, of taking part in a long tradition of behaviors, notions, and ideals, but with an edge. Sure, you're trying to take someone's last penny but within the observed boundaries and rules. You're still hustling them, but it's a legal hustle, honed by many hours of study, thought, and practice.

But really, seriously, how often is that the case? When is the game of poker really that these days, either live or online? Do you really turn off PokerTracker and any HUDs when you play online? Have you really never mined data from observed tables? Discussed a big hand in a tournament in a chat client with friends?

In the end, I just can't help but think it's all a big exercise in splitting hairs, as far as discussing what the response should be to multi-accounting, buying accounts late in tournaments, etc. If the Absolute/UB tale is true, that's some pretty bad shit, but I can't help but think that it's just part of the general climate of online poker these days. It's just impossible to ever replicate the security you have as a player when you sit in a cash game at the Bellagio (and even that isn't 100% guaranteed to be safe from collusion), and it seems somewhat inevitable that a mentality of grab-whatever-you-can-anyway-you-can will continue to be perpetuated in the online world.

If you can grab an edge, grab it. Then justify it later, if it needs justifying. If that fails, fall back on the excuse of "But it's the site's fault for allowing loopholes like that to exist in the first place."

I can't say I personally agree with the grab-it mentality, but I think it's too depply embedded in this thing we know of as poker to really root out at this point.

But then, what the hell do I know, as a semi-retired poker blogger hack and cash game donkey.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What is This Limit Poker that You Speak Of?

I've been absolutely swamped the last 2-3 weeks, trying desperately to finish the current house I'm renovating, but I have managed to sneak in a bit of poker play. Amazingly enough, the numbers in my Full Tilt account are actually getting larger, instead of smaller. I mean, what the hell is going on? It must be a sign that end times are truly near.

I have to scrape together a bitof free time here and some over there as far as poker play, so I can't say that I have much of a routine these days. Cash games, satellites, SnGs, MTTs, you name it, I tend to just jump into anything I see that looks decent, when I have time to play. I doubt that such a random-ass, scattershot approach is doing me much good, but I went on a nice mini-tear this weekend, cashing in the $750K, winning two seats into FTOPS events, and going on a nice little run at the LHE tables.

The $750K was about as random as it gets, as I sat down at the computer after a long day on Sunday that started at 6 AM, saw there was 15 minutes to go until the $750K started, and entered two of those dumb-ass $26 100 chips SnGs. Bombed out on the first hand of one of them but managed to win the second for the entry into the $750K.

I chipped up decently the first hour or so, then donked off a quarter of my stack calling a pretty obvious monster on the river with just TPTK. Took a few smaller hits and found myself fairly short-stacked and a really active player to my left. Folds around to me on the button and I raise it up with AJo and Mr. Active re-pops it from the SB, but not too hugely. BB folds and I assume he's re-stealing so I shove, he insta-calls with AKs, and I'm packing up my virtual stuff when a J spikes on the river.

After that it was pretty much a blur, literally, until I went out somewhere in the low 200s for a cash of about $500. I just didn't have any noteworthy hands, only taking down the blinds when I had KK once and AA once, and basically just stole when I had to to keep my head above water. Moved a few places up the payscale when a shove with 85s got called by A9s and I flopped an 8, but other than that there's not much I regret or felt I could have done much differently. I had a decent stack when I went out shoving my JJ and ran into AA in the BB.

Managed to qualify for both FTOPS #5 and #7, both on my first shot in fairly cheap qualifiers (I think both were $26). The satellite for FTOPS #5 was kind of funny, as it only had 11 runners (whee, limit hold'em) and I think I had the chip lead from ten minutes in until the end. Just absolutely run over by the deck, pretty much the whole way through.

I thought I should likely try to knock some rust off the limit game, so I spent a decent number of hours at the $10/20 LHE tables, which was actually pretty fun. It always helps when you book profitable sessions, but I'd forgotten some of the reasons I played so damn much limit poker back in the days of yore. It's impossible to argue that NLHE isn't where it's at these days, as far as maximizing your profits, but I can't but find LHE a lot mroe relaxing, and, in many ways, more thought-provoking. At least at the lower levels I frequent, 90% of NLHE is push-pull, semi-brainless poker, without too much exercising of the noggin'. LHE, though, is a little more nuanced, and at least takes a few active neurons to play decently at.

While playing I dusted off my old PokerTracker stats from the good ol' days, which only resulted in nostalgic tears for ancient times when the Party 15/30 and 20/40 full-ring LHE tables were hopping. That even a relative donk such as my stuff could have pulled as much cash off those tables in their heydey is a testament to just how good the games once were, before NLHE and our lovely guvmint did their best to squash poor full-ring LHE.

Monday, January 07, 2008

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2008 and Beyond

Writing a recap of 2007 in this here poker blog has proven a little difficult, as I've started and stopped this post quite a few times over the last few days. A lot of that is due to my increasingly schizo blogging nature that developed during the year, with a lot more of my time spent on my house flipping blog than here. Writing about poker also feels weird, as part of me wants to insist that I didn't even really play poker this year, despite lots of evidence to the contrary.

With so much of my time devoted to renovating houses in 2007, my own personal poker play definitely took a backseat. Throw in the tournament reporting gigs for PokerRoom and my other affiliate and freelance work, and life, and that left poker squeezed out of even the backseat, forced to hitch a trailer to the back of the rapidly accelerating vehicle zooming down the highway.

Part of me definitely does miss the heady days of yore, when I couldn't read enough about poker and rushed home to excitedly log on to play some cards after work, but much more of me is definitely happy to largely close that chapter of my life. My competitive nature gets the best of me at time, and poker is a dangerous mistress in that regard. Even when I was fully wrapped up in the world of poker I was uneasy about the amount of time it consumed on a daily basis, and all I can do is shake my head sadly when looking back from an even greater remove.

As far as results, it was a prerry schizo year. I finished in the hole about $2,500 on the year as far as online play, after bouncing around all over the place during the year, playing MTTs, SnGs, cash games, HU, you name it. Booking a loss does sting, but it is what it is. I could sugarcoat it or resort to the ever-fun tactic of misdirection and half-truths, but, really and truly, I donked it up online the whole year.

I rarely had a proper bankroll and showed absolutely no table or game selection, signing up for the Sunday Million on a whim, jumping into a Omaha tournament at the last minute for no reason whatsoever, jumping into SnGs over my roll, you name it, I did it. When I buckled down and ground out $50NL and $100 NL cash games I had lots of success, but I'd inevitably get impatient and sit in a $400 NL game, or play a bunch of big buy-in Sunday tournaments, or anything else to hamstring myself.

Much of that loss came from ad money and other "found" money, but I actually deposited about $800 of my own money (the first deposit I'd made into the poker economy in many moons) throughout the year. I've currently got $2.37 total in my online accounts after decimating my remaining bankroll while bored on vacation. Which isn't exactly, umm, robusto.

On the flip side, I showed about a $6,000 profit from live play during the year, which included playing at the Bike, Commerce, and Las Vegas. About $4,000 came from tournament winnings, with the rest from $1/2 and $2/4 NL cash games. I was actually just shy of $8K in profits before the last trip, but dumped back a chunk of those profits.

I could try to explain the gap there and vow to play more live poker in 2008, due to my mad people reading skillz and savvy tournament learnings, but that'd be a pretty dumb exercise. Reading anything at all into 10-15 tournament results and 25 hours or so of cash game play is sheer silliness, as that's too wee a sample size to conclude much of anything.

Perhaps more importantly than the bottom line dollars and cents is that for the most part, I enjoyed playing poker in 2007, with less and less compulsion to play a certain amount of hands or trying to extract a certain amount of profit from the game. I've talked in the past about attempts to return poker to "enjoyable hobby" status, and I feel like I'm nearly there.

Much of the online losses are solely due to playing over my bankroll, so I'm not quite there, as the compulsion to jump into games over my head is pretty directly linked to the "one big score" fantasy, where I like to pretend that a win in the Sunday Millions will provide me with the proper bankroll to be an online poker holla balla, yada yada yada. Donking off $2,500 in a year is kind of pricey for an "enjoyablee hobby", though, so I either need to take my online play more seriously (unlikely) or limit myself to playing lower stake tournaments and SnGs (more likely).

As far as my own play, I'm not too terribly unhappy with where I'm at poker-wise. The tournament reporting gig has definitely helped, as far as simply watching many, many hours of live tournament play at the WSOP, WPT Legends, WPT North American Poker Championship, and WPT Five Diamonds events. It's also been nice to be around poker players on those trips, as far as discussing hands, how to play certain situations, etc. I also got a lot of live play in, something I've actually done very little of in the past.

As far as poker goals for 2008, I'm hoping to be able to play 2-3 preliminary WSOP events this year, assuming I get the two investment houses I currently own sold by June. I'll likely stick some cash back into Full Tilt when their WSOP satellites start back up, as I've had pretty good success in those in the past, and it'd be nice to grab an entry or two on the cheap. But I'm pretty committed to buying into at least a couple of events, and have set aside the profits from this last year's play for that.

I'd like to get back into the habit of posting here more, but the jury is still out on that. I wish I had the energy and drive of Pauly and could post more here during poker tournament trips, but I'm usually too busy and/or exhausted to do anything more writerly than the work I'm being paid to do, so usually nothing gets posted here. I've toyed with the idea of re-entering the poker and casino affiliate world, which would probably lead to more posting here, but I'm having enough success in my other affiliate ventures to get excited about the prospect at the moment, as the uncertainty and feeling of having already been burned once is still a bit too strong.

So, in the end, who knows. I'll definitely still poke my head in here from time to time and if you see me at the online tables, rejoice, as there's likely money to be made. Hope everyone had a great 2007 and an even better 2008.