Thursday, June 30, 2005

Please Restart Time

Many thanks to all of you kind souls for the birthday wishes.

I've got absolutely nothing today. Tank is empty. Just sitting here, staring at the clock, which refuses to budge.

Yep, still stuck.

Forgot to mention that I actually get to play real, live poker tonight with Big Slick Nuts, April, and Broke Gambler (and maybe a few others that I missed/don't know). No laughing at my complete and utter lack of shuffling and/or dealing skillz. No, really...

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Days O' Birthing

It's my birfday. Happy birfday to me.

Not that I expected it to be any different, but turning 31 is pretty much a meh experience, all the way around. At least 30 is sort of noteworthy, but 31? Meh, okay, whatever, turn the page.

Managed to post a few decent poker sessions in a row lately, which is nice, if a bit grindy. I'll take it however I can get it but beating someone over the head with a blunt, aggressive object isn't always the most exciting or stimulating way to play poker. I actually almost fell asleep playing the other night, which is the first time that's ever happened. Granted, it had a good bit to do with working my monkey arse off over the weekend, but still...

I got Harrington on Hold Em and Middle Limit Holdem Poker (Ciaffone) yesterday and started in on them both. I haven't read enough to spew any sort of informed opinion, but I'm actually liking the Ciaffone more, despite the fact that it's more clumsily written and a bit harder to read. No offense to Action Dan, but I haven't gotten to anything eye-opening yet. Like I said, though, I'm only a quarter or so through it, so hopefully there are later nuggets to be gleaned.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

PokerTracker Datamining

Per a comment from WillWonka, I thought I'd bang together a post about my recent foray into getting serious about data mining with PokerTracker and what my daily routine is, and all that nuts and bolts jazz.

In case you're living under a rock, PokerTracker is the best damn thing since sliced bread, if you play online poker. Honestly and truly, this is the single best investment you can make, more so than any single poker book, and it will continue to pay dividends for you long after you buy it.

Aside from allowing you to analyze and review your play, PokerTracker has a couple of meta features/capabilities that aren't immediately apparent, that are immensely valuable to you. No, really. Immensely. And it's even more valuable if you get Poker Tracker Guide along with it, so that you can maximize its capabilities right out of the box, instead of mucking around and not using it to its fullest potential.

For many sites, PokerTracker lets you download hand histories, insert them in a database, and view the results in all sorts of ways. Which is very cool. What's cooler, though, is that you can also configure PokerTracker to download and store hand histories on Party/Party skin sites that you simply observe, in addition to hands you actually play in. Yes, that's right. You don't have to actually be playing, merely observing.

With that in mind, here's my daily routine as far as data mining a ton o' hands. My backup desktop basically runs 24/7, with 4 Party 15/30 tables open (which is the maximum number of tables you can open). These are observed tables, obviously, and I periodically check it every now and then when I'm around to make sure tables haven't collapsed, etc. It's a little hit or miss when I'm at work/sleeping, as I'm not there to open a new table to replace a collapsed one, but generally they run for quite awhile.

4 observed tables will generate somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 hands/hour. Which works out to about 6,000 hands/day, if you have a dedicated computer doing nothing but data mining observed hands.

If you really want to maximize the number of hands you're grabbing (and have a second computer), you can install PokerTracker on your second computer and open 4 more tables on a different Party skin than the one you've logged in on for your dedicated computer. Same drill, keep 4 tables open (make sure they're different, though, than the other 4 you're observing), grab lots and lots of juicy data.

(Edit: We all have "Dur" moments and the above was mine. If you're just observing tables, you can pull up all of the Party skins on your same computer. No need for two computers. Dur.)

It's a pain in a lot of ways but it's pretty damn valuable data you're grabbing. Keep this up for awhile and you'll quickly amass lots of information about the way regular opponents play, at whatever level you data mine. It won't include data for you, obviously, but that's not the point. The point is to capture large enough sample sizes about your opponents so that you can, with the right tools, use that data when you actually do play against them.

The next step is to install GameTime+. This is a free, incredibly useful application that will take your PokerTracker data and overlay it on the actual table you're playing at online. This provides you a snapshot view in real time as to how your opponents play, based on the hand histories you've data mined. You can instantly see their win rate, how many hands you have in the database in which their stats are based on, how many hands they play, and how aggressively they play them.

Does it tell you what their down cards are? No. Do fishy players who lose tons of money sometimes have great hands and bash you over the head with them? Of course. But the combination of PokerTracker/GameTime+ is really, really valuable, especially if you data mine and get a large database of hands. You still have to make the reads and decisions, still have to bring the skillz, but you get a head-start by sitting down and instantly having data on how many of your opponents play (as long as they've been involved in hands you've data mined).

I also use the data mined hands in broader ways, too, even when I'm not at the table. It's very useful to see the real-world results of certain playing styles, as far as how players fare who play more than 30% of their hands with a pre-flop raise percentage of > 15%, etc. Or even broader trends, such as comparing players with the best BB/100 rates and reverse-engineering where that success comes from, as far as comparing and contrasting different stats.

On a more practical note, I'll also use the data to populate my buddy list with certain players, usually fishy players that play far too many hands and are very passive. Then when I log on I'll do a player search and see if any are on, and whether or not they're at a table that looks promising. If you like playing with hyper aggressive maniacs or ultra-tight rocks, it's easy enough to sift through the data and find them, add them to your buddy list, and locate them when you log on and are looking for a table.

So, to recap:

1) Buy PokerTracker, which is essentially useful crack for successful poker players. Just buy it. Your wallet will thank you.
2) Get a copy of Poker Tracker Guide and maximize your crack high and make more money.
3) Data mine like crazy. Put that computer to work, instead of it just sitting there, idle.
4) Add GameTime+ to the mix, utilizing all that data you mined when you sit down to play.
5) Use all of the data you've mined to improve your decision-making at the table as well as to analyze you and your opponents' play. Improve your table selection by tagging and finding certain player types you're comfortable playing against.
6) Make mo' money playing poker.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Come Baaaaccck, Weekend

Man. Productive weekend, but it somehow seemed to last about 12 minutes. Now I'm back at the cube monkey grind, looking around, feeling like I just escaped this place for the weekend, oh, fifteen minutes ago.

Poker and I made up slightly on Sunday but we're still not really speaking. I spent some time with my other girlfriend, blackjack, and she kicked me in the junk, too. Not my finest degenerate weekend. Junk kicking hos.

I should quit my whining, as far as poker goes. I've logged about 17,000 hands at 15/30 and so far I'm a net winner. Granted, I'm up a whopping $27.32, and am about $5K below my high-water mark earlier in the month, but it obviously could be much, much worse.

One of the things I'm struggling with most comes from a reasonably surprising place. While I've used PokerTracker for quite awhile, until recently I hadn't gone down the hardcore data mining/analysis road. I've been doing a lot of that lately, looking at different PT stats and win/rates, scouring forums, crunching numbers, etc.

What's surprising is that while I can deal with all sorts of short term craziness, as far as suckouts and bad beats go, I'm having a hard time dealing with my relative treading of water in the long run, compared to other players in my database. First things first, 17,000 hands is a drop in the statistical bucket, and I definitely realize that. But it's odd that going 0-9 with AA over the weekend doesn't really phase me or cause me to bash my head against the monitor, yet seeing and tracking an absolute muppet who should be stuck multiple thousands of dollars pull in 15K in profits so far this month causes me much frustration and, at times, slight hopelessness.

A large part of it is that I think too damn much. It's also not helping as far as looking towards poker as a potential job-replacement type thing, either, even in the cautious, dip-a-toe-in-the-water-first way I'm approaching it. Even acknowledging limited sample sizes, I'm a bit at the throw my hands up in the air stage, as the randomness of results is a bit discouraging, especially when one starts paying close attention and crunching all sorts of numbers. I definitely understand and embrace the value of a big picture approach. It's just hard to get excited lately when facing the reality of the month to month variance, and the fact that if you play a reasonable number of hands each month, recreationally, your results (and the results of other players playing a similar number of hands) will be a bit of a crap shoot.

All that whining aside, it's been a good learning experience, I'm not losing money, and I'm not throwing in the towel or changing a thing I'm doing. I'm playing better than I was a month ago and will be playing better than I am now a month from now.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

An Open Letter to My Girlfriend, Poker

Girlfriend, you gots to start treating me better. No ifs, ands, or buts. Gots to.

I'll admit that I like the little games we play, the back and forth, hot and cold, she loves me, she loves kicking me repeatedly in the junk tango. I like a challenge. There's nothing whatsoever wrong with fast horses and faster women but girlfriend, I like the fact that nothing about you is easy and that you keep me on my toes.

But moderation, baby, moderation. You need to savvy up to that or I may just go on walkabout for awhile, take a slow train to Albuquerque.

Deal me AA, flop me a third A, but have me lose to a guy with 22, who capped it all the way with just a pair of 2s, only to catch runner runner spades so that his 2 of spades plays for the flush? Damn, baby. I may have not always treated you the best, but there's not a single solitary thing I could ever do to you to deserve that.

That's just low down and mean, baby. Spiteful.

Losing with quad Ks to quad As? Come on, baby. Don't be like that. Not only is that bad, baby, but that's bad beat jackpot bad. Epicly bad. Like 1 in 12.7 kajillion bad.

I'm not saying you have to always treat me good, baby. Just don't treat me so damn bad.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Donkey Goes Eeee-Awww, Eeee-Awww

Not too much of note to report on the poker front. Feel sort of sheepish, to be honest, babbling on about assorted results when people are dealing with much more serious, weighty issues and bad mojo.

I got in my hands yesterday, played like an absolute donkey, and won lots of money. I was more embarrassed than pleased, to be honest, which maybe is a milestone in and of itself, as far as profits not overcoming the disappointment with oneself for playing like a muppet.

I took down a couple of big pots when I completed from the SB with 92s and J5s, rivering a flush both times. Completing was fine, but in both cases I wasn't getting proper odds on the turn to chase, but chase I did. Eeee-Awww.

The other notable donk win came when I was in the BB with A6o and the button open-raised me. He was fairly LAGgy and had been doing this pretty frequently, as the table was pretty tight and often folded around to the button.

I decided to get cute and call and then check-raise the flop, no matter what came. This sounds kind of dumb but can be reasonably effective if it's heads up, you think someone is on a steal, and you've been playing tightly at the table. Sort of a mini stop-and-go, as the flop usually misses you both and the aggressor will simply fold when you show strength. There's also a little extra value of playing back at someone who is likely stealing from you with a wide range of hands.

That said, it's kind of hard to force myself to do it if the flop misses you, as you could easily be throwing away an extra BB with the check-raise, since you pretty much have to fold if he comes over the top of you.

So I have A6o in the BB, everyone folds, button raises, SB folds, I call. Flop comes J 8 2, rainbow. I check, button bets, I check-raise, button 3 bets. Doh.

For some reason I call. I have no idea why. Horrible. I can't take A6o to showdown if I don't improve on the turn but there's virtually no card that can come on the turn that'll help me, only cards that can slightly improve what could already be a dominated hand.

Turn is an A. I bet, button raises. Doh.

I call. Again, no idea why. Well, the call isn't horrible, but betting out when the A came is pretty bad. I'm not going to fold but checking and calling the turn and river is by far the best line, as I have absolutely no clue where I'm at. If he doesn't have an A, checking and calling may induce him to continue to bluff at the pot, since he's the aggressor. Betting out can only result in him folding lots of hands he might continue to bet with (KK, QQ, smaller pocket pairs, etc.) or getting raised if he really has a hand.

River is a 6. I check, he bets, I call. He shows AKs, I shamefacedly take down the pot with my mighty A6o. You could make a decent argument that I misplayed absolutely every decision I had to make in that hand, from start to finish.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Crappy Cards

Sorry for your loss, Spaceman.

No Love for the Pistons

Indeed, it's easy to be an, umm, Wednesday morning, umm, basketball-equivalent-to-a-quarterback, but I have to believe that some folks made a killing on last night's NBA finals game. I'm kicking myself for not loading up even more on the Pistons, as Bodog had them at +6 when I placed my bet, which is pretty freaking ridiculous. Yeah, I know, they were playing in San Antonio, down 3-2, against a team with one of the best home records this year in the NBA. Yeah, I know, they're not exactly a likeable or exciting team. But they're also 8-1 the last three years when facing elimination (and 10-0 when they can eliminate their opponent). Not hard to imagine the Pistons winning that game outright, much less when handed 6 points. It'll be interesting to see the line for Game 7.

Managed to right the slightly listing poker ship yesterday, booking a decent win and calling it a day. AA actually held up for me, twice, despite five people seeing the flop in both cases and aces not improving. I realize I should be happy happy to get that many customers with big hands but more and more I just cringe, as far too often that ginormous pot ends up sliding to someone who hands around with middle pair and catches good on the river, etc.

I still haven't quite worked out a working plan I'm happy with at higher limits, as far as session length. I'm still sort of feeling things out and haven't been playing a ton of hands (usually 1,000-1,500/week) and haven't quite settled on an approach I'm happy with. From a results-oriented point of view, I'd like to able to get to the point where I could play poker and make the equivalent of what my day job pays me. Not that I necessarily want to play poker full-time, but more so that I'd have that insurance policy securely tucked in my back pocket in case I needed it. So it's easy enough to crunh numbers, round off here and there, and come up with a daily ballpark number to shoot for.

The problem, though, (and it's one of those good problems, not bad ones) is that number is a good bit lower than the average pot size at some 15/30 tables. So it's entirely possible for me to sit down, post, get dealt a couple of cards, and win $400 the first hand I play, putting me well ahead of the completely arbitrary target number floating in my head. I have to admit that a few times I've completely donked out, called it a day, logged off, and run away with my winnings, playing exactly one hand of poker that day.

Yes, I know, silliness. Lately I've been better, getting in my daily allotment of hands, no matter the results, but it is something I didn't expect to struggle with. It's more than a little tricky, as the inherent variance can wipe a $400 profit out very quickly, making you feel like even more of a muppet for not booking the profit and calling it a day. Which is when the tilt monster gets a whiff of weakness and starts whispering in your ear, trying to convince you to play more hands in order to get back those profits that the bastards stole from you.

I've found myself playing shorter sessions, usually not more than an hour at a time, as it seems easier to stay sharp and (usually) keep things on an even keel. I'm still usually just playing one table, sometimes two, and it's normally hard to bleed too much in an hour's time. When I look back at my worst runs, it's usually a situation where I get stuck quickly and get stubborn, playing long after it ceases to be fun or profitable. My house and wife are happier with shorter sessions, too, as I usually play for a bit, shut it down, go kick my yard's ass, do assorted other stuff, come back, play for half an hour, rinse, repeat.

I still continue to run freakishly well with the silly online blackjack play. Not complaining at all, mind you, but it's more than a little odd.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

No Mas, Poker Gods

Okay, I get it. No, really. I get it. No blogging about good results, as I will immediately and swiftly be kicked in the junk. Hard. Repeatedly. Got it.

I don't think there's much argument as far as aggressive poker being the best kind of poker. You can't sit there and nut peddle if you want to maximize your win rate. Got it. But aggressive poker and an unending stream of second-best hands can definitely be a recipe for disaster.

If my little foray into 15/30 is teaching me anything, it's that what goes up also goes down. And sideways. And diagonally. Since my high water mark on Sunday morning I'm down -$2,723. Sweet. I'm still up for the month but that cushion just got a whole lot skinnier. I can feel the hard bleachers again underneath my monkey arse.

And that only includes a few little mini-tilts here and there. Looking back at the ugly numbers, I have limped far too often, cold called far too often, and played too passively. That said, I didn't play that horribly, didn't start steaming, didn't freak out. I basically just played aggressively, won very few big pots, and kept catching pieces of the flop and second best hands I couldn't get away from.

I've got about 300,000 hands of 15/30 and 30/60 in my main PokerTracker database now, the vast majority which are data mined and don't involve my own personal play. Combing through the results is very, very interesting, especially the summary view as far as overall winners/losers. Long story short (and this shouldn't come as a surprise), the mythical long run in poker, where all results even out and skill is rewarded, is a very, very, very long run. Complete and utter muppets (VPIP 84%, PFR% 0) that should be getting their muppet asses handed to them sporting 8.5 BB/100 rates over 4,000+ hands. TAGs with seemingly optimal numbers clocking in with five digit losses. And so on and so forth.

Bottom line, weird shit happens. Especially with short term poker results. If you're thinking of stepping up in limits, make sure you're ready to ready to deal with that. Don't just focus on blogs and forums where people talk about how consistently they beat the games, how each day they sit down and hundred dollar bills immediately start shooting out the the CD-ROM drive. That's a complete and utter misrepresentation of the peaks and valleys you'll encounter. Over time, yes, indeed, many of those people are probably beating the higher limits consistently and making an obscene amount of money. I don't doubt that whatsoever. What's left out, though, are the junk-kicking daily/weekly/monthly swings, in which the poker gods take devilish glee in turning logic upside down, alternately blessing and cursing poor, lowly poker monkeys in completely random, haphazard fashion.

On a brighter note, here's a somewhat interesting hand from yesterday:

Slowplaying by Playing Sort of Fast

15/30 Party game, fairly typical mix of players, not too aggressive or crazy. I've got AA UTG. I raise, folds to MP who calls, folds to the button, who three-bets. Both blinds fold. I call.

Yes, indeed, I could cap, and they'd both come along. But I've been playing pretty tightly so far and capping it UTG basically screams "I have AA or KK". I'd rather not scream that and am willing to sacrifice 1 BB. Capping won't drive anyone out but it will broadcast my hand.

One thing to note, too, is that I'll be acting first, as the blinds have folded. With big hands and decent pots like this, sometimes I like to simply call in situations like this. The idea is that I'll lead out on the flop, hoping to appear as if I'm trying to gain information, and let the aggressor (in this case the button, who three bet) follow through in typical aggressive fashion by raising. In essence I'll be check-raising, as far as getting two bets in, but disguising the strength of my hand by letting the aggressor raise.

The flop comes A J 7, rainbow. I bet, MP calls, and the button raises. I call and MP calls.

Again, same idea as before. Yes, I can three bet. Yes, I have the best hand. Yes, there's the off chance that one of them could be holding overcards and complete their straight by the river. But at this point I'm willing to risk slowplaying with it being three-handed and everyone showing strength pre-flop), hoping to trap MP (assuming he has the third worst hand at this point).

Turn is a 5. I bet, MP calls, button raises. I call. MP calls.

This is probably the most debatable part of the hand. This is where I'd normally give up the slowplay and start jamming. And it's hard to argue against that. The only real argument (and the reason I played it this way) is that my seemingly donk bets on the flop and turn, followed by the inevitable raise which is then merely called, increase the chances of someone (hopefully both players) capping it with me on the river. Showing further strength on the turn decreases the odds of that happening, with MP giving up Ax or even two pair. My weak leads and calls make it look like I'm playing Ax myself. Because I'm leading out, two bets per player still go into the pot, just like on the flop, but I can still look weak, given the action.

River is a 9. I bet, MP calls, button raises, it ends up capped with all three of us still in. Button shows JJ, MP shows AJs, I take it down.

Not the most exciting hand, granted, but sort of interesting, as far as "slowplaying" a big hand but still raising pre-flop and betting out on both the flop and the turn. It actually helps to be first to act in that situation, as you can feign a weak bet for information and often get two bets per player in the pot in early betting rounds without having to check-raise yourelf in order to maximize the value of your hand and pot size.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Link Pop, Git Yer Link Pop

World Series of Poker Live Blog

World Series of Poker Photos

World Series of Poker News

World Series of Poker Podcast

Blog Blog Blog Blog

Just about the only bright spot I can find this fine Monday morning is that I get to babble on about all sorts of assorted things. There is that, to chalk up in the plus column of the Life of a Cubicle Monkey spreadsheet.

I'm actually in a more than decent mood, due to much kicking of ass this weekend. We'd been putting off assorted house cleaning chores for, umm, way too long, and kept taking trips here and there, and delaying the inevitable day of cleaning reckoning. Much was accomplished on that front, plus I managed to finish up most of the lugging of limestone/building of flower beds project. And I finally got the dang ol' garage cleaned out again, put up some shelving units to hopefully keep it straightened up, plus some lamps and area rugs to make it a little more habitable. The ultimate plan (when it's not approximately the temperature of the sun in our attic) is to run cable/ethernet through the ceiling, further enhancing garage habitability.

And yes, indeed, there was poker ass kicking as well. I'd been pretty happy with how the venture into 15/30 has gone so far, but I was also keeping my monkey toes crossed, hoping for a bit of a rush at some point to give me a bit more of a cushion, just so I could more easily ignore some of the downswings. I finally got that this weekend, especially on Sunday, when I caught fire on two tables and just couldn't miss. Everything was coming through, suited connectors, big pairs holding up, middle pairs flopping sets, etc. I did manage to give a chunk of it back later that night, when the worm turned a bit, but still a very, very good weekend.

I'll probably post a wrap-up soon of my first full month playing 15/30 exclusively, but, umm, yeah. Profitable. Beatable. Even by a monkey like myself that tends towards too passive play at times. I won't say that there are idiot muppets handing out large sums of money, as by and large most players are pretty decent. I will say, though, that it's relatively easy to know where you're at, more often than not (especially with the aid of PokerTracker and GameTime+).

Saw the newer version of The Longest Yard on Friday, which was pretty amusing. Discussion with the wife about how old Burt Reynolds' character was supposed to be in the movie led me to IMDB, which confirmed that ol' Burt is, indeed, 69 years old. That's a well-preserved, well-nigh 70 year old man. Hats off to you, Burt.

My mom suddenly decided to come visit us for four days this upcoming weekend. Umm, okay, sounds good, Mom. It will save us driving to Tennessee to visit over the 4th of July holiday, which is a good thing, and I get along with my mom reasonably well, when she's not completely making things up, so it shouldn't be too bad. Plus I'll prbably get some birthday loot out of it. Mmm, loot...

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Maybe it's the inner cynic in me, but I find it fascinating that I'm largely unsurprised and blase when I get fairly stuck during a session, but downright amazed and giddy when I somehow end up unstuck.

The capacity for people to wager large sums of money at activities they aren't particularly good at is staggering.

15/30 is forcing me to be a lot more aware of table selection, which is a good thing. Table composition changes very quickly. It's not even a matter of chasing certain players, but more a matter of avoiding certain combinations of playing styles.

GameTime+ is the best thing since sliced bread.

I still have the capacity to play like a donkey at times.

The thing I'm enjoying most about stepping up in limits is that it's actually forcing me to think again when playing. Interesting hand from last night:

I'm in the BB with Q7s. It folds around to the button, who raises. So far he's shown himself to be a reasonable smart LAG, has pimped my blind a lot but I've had absolutely nothing to defend with. Not that Q7s is a strong hand but it's something and I can't keep folding and let him run over me. SB folds and I call.

Flop is Q 9 2, rainbow.

I'm fairly sure I'm ahead, as I have a feeling he's stealing from the button with basically any two cards. My first impulse is to bet, to see where I'm at in the hand and to make him pay for cards if he has overcards.

He's likely going to raise, though, no matter what he has, as that's the proper LAGgy thing to do in that spot. If I call, I really gained no information and am back at square one. If I re-raise and he folds, I only extract 1 extra BB from him. If he calls or caps, though, I'm still likely commited to this hand, given the situation and his nature.

Heads-up against a LAG on the button who's likely trying to steal blinds, I pretty much have to commit to taking my hand to the river, despite the fact that I only have TPCK (top pair, crappy kicker). I'm very likely ahead but if not, I'm way behind, and have relatively marginal hopes of improving my hand.

I just check on the flop. He bets and I call. Yes, I'm giving him free cards which could be dangerous, as he likely has an A or K in his hand, but my goal with this hand is to get it to showdown with minimal exposure to risk, as I've already committed to taking it to showdown. A nice side benefit of that line is that a LAG will likely continue to bet on both the turn and river, even if he doesn't have a hand and doesn't improve, trying to induce a fold.

Turn is a blank. I check, he bets, I call. I could check-raise here, as my hand improves with every blank, but it's the same situation as the flop. If he has nothing, he folds. If he re-raises, I can't get away from the hand, and would call, and then check call the river. If he's playing just overcards, he'll may continue to bet out even if he blanks on the river, trying to induce a fold or win with A high, etc.

River is a blank. I check, he bets, I call. Again, same logic, as betting out or check raising induces a fold if he has nothing and costs me dearly if he has a hand.

He flips over AKs, I take down the pot with my pair of queens.

First things first, yes, indeed, I took a really passive line that didn't attempt to punish him for his overaggression, and I allowed him two shots at improving his hand. That said, I think it's an interesting hand, as it made me think about a few larger concepts.

1) Betting or raising for information: When the aggression factor is amped up (as if often the case in 15/30 games), betting out or raising for information is less effective, especially heads-up. Players will still raise and cap with overcards or on a complete bluff. If you have a good but vulnerable hand and it's heads-up, simply xheck calling is sometimes much more effective than betting or raising.

2) Controlling your exposure to risk: If it's heads-up and you're not the aggressor in a typically aggressive game (due to position or betting the previous round), you need to decide very early if you're going to take your hand to showdown. If you're committed to taking the hand to showdown, then you want to do it as cheaply as possible, especially if it's a decent but vulnerable hand. The only advantage you have in this situation is that you can control the bets that go into the pot by not betting out or raising. If betting or raising doesn't buy you more information, all it does then is expose you to more risk in an good but uncertain situation that you've committed to taking to the river.

3) Letting aggressive players bet your hand: Smart LAGs hate players that simply call. Simply check-calling down with a medium strong hand against a LAG that's prone to stealing your blinds is a good way to disabuse them of stealing tendencies. It also adds more weight to future similar situations where you bet out or check raise against them. An interesting side effect is that if you check raise early and they fold, they get no read on your playing tendencies as it doesn't go to showdown. If you check-call to showdown, though, everyone at the table sees what just transpired. Being passive (and giving the outward appearance of passivity) just means that you played that hand passively, not that you're a passive player.

4) Know thy smart LAG from thy dumb LAG: I'm mainly just guessing here, but I would bet that the players that show the highest BB/100 win rates at higher stakes games are actually smart LAGs and not TAGs. The average winner would be a TAG, but I think a smart, relentlessly aggressive LAG is capable of achieving and maintaining the highest BB/100 of all player types. That said, there's a huge difference between a smart LAG and a dumb LAG. Smart LAGs can dump hands in an instant when the feedback loop signals they're beaten, and amp up the aggression when they sense weakness. Dumb LAGs just fire and fire and fire, ignoring all input. Don't lump all LAGs into the same bucket, especially if they've previously shown the ability to shut down and get away from hands.

In other non-poker related news, I may get to start telecommuting a second day each week, starting in a couple of weeks. Wait, that's actually poker-related news. Heh. I have to admit the idea of coming to the office only three days a week is very appealing, almost enough so to make up for other silliness. My problem with my place of employ isn't the work necessarily (although it is pretty mindless and non-stimulating these days), but the things that go on at the place of employ. Remove the bulk of that from the equation and hmm...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Return of Teddy Ruxpin

Thank Jebus, they're bringing back Teddy Ruxpin. Finally, at long last, I can sleep at night.

No, no I can't. Why not? Because that thing is FUCKING CREEPY. It was FUCKING CREEPY in the 1980's and guess what? It's still FUCKING CREEPY.

Did you improve it somehow, to make it less FUCKING CREEPY? Nay.

"MP3 cartridges have replaced his original cassette tapes, but Teddy Ruxpin's animatronic eyes and mouth will still move in trademark fashion as he narrates a series of stories about the land of Grundo."

Land of Grundo, my ass.

I was absolutely terrified by Teddy Ruxpin as a wee lad, sure I would wake up at night and find it holding a pillow over my mouth, those eyes rotating and grinding around and around, giggling in its FUCKING CREEPY voice.

Care Bears, pfft, whatever, bring 'em back, pitch it to those who love all things retro, who cares. Cabbage Patch kids, meh, stupid big headed dolls. But for the sake of the wee baby Jebus, leave that FUCKING CREEPY Teddy Ruxpin in the shallow grave he was safely buried in.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Big Honking Guide to What to Do With Your Poker Loot

I've finally finished up a big ol' project that I'd been working on, plus banged out a lot of monkey work for the day job. Which means it's time for another big honking long-winded post. And guess what? It's only tangentially related to poker. Boo ya.

The Big Honking Guide to What to Do With Your Poker Loot

If you work hard enough at poker, at some point you'll start making money. No, really. If you keep moving up in limits, that profit will grow larger. At a certain point, your profits will exceed the bankroll you need to play the limit you're at, thus posing a nice quandry: what to do with your poker winnings?

(Couple of quick caveats. This obviously applies to money management in general and not just poker profits. I'm also just a normal monkey who has experience with all of the stuff below. I'm not a financial advisor, though, or a professional of any sort, so take it all with the proverbial grain o' salt.)

Letting money sit in your Neteller account is -EV. That's completely dead money that's doing nothing for you. So the first step is to decide on what you absolutely need, as far as your poker bankroll, and withdraw the rest from Neteller.

Once that's done, you basically have two choices:

1) Spend the poker profits
2) Invest the poker profits

I won't dwell long on #1, as it's pretty self-explanatory. There's a lot to be said for buying loot or paying for a vacation with poker profits. Making the results of all of that grinding and poker playing tangible is a really, really good feeling. I encourage everyone to do it at some point. That said, most rich people got rich from saving and investing, not from spending money.

As far as investing, if you do absolutely nothing else, strongly consider opening an Orange Savings account from ING Direct. If you think you might need access to poker winnings to replenish your bankroll or just want to keep it completely liquid in the event of a financial crisis of any sort, an Orange Savings account is a great choice. It's all electronic, FDIC insured, no annual fees or minimum required balance, and you can open tan account with as little as $100. They offer a variable 3% annual percentage yield, which is much better than anything your bank is currently offering you on your savings account, and likely better than most money market accounts. The Orange account is linked to your existing checking account and you can move funds back and forth easily, with tranfers usually being completed with 2 business days.

A quick note about savings. You'll see different numbers tossed about, but you generally want to have 6 months-12 months of living expenses in liquid traditional savings. Anything more than that is dead money. No, really. In the best case scenario, any interest you earn from a savings account does little more than keep pace with inflation. So yes, indeed, saving every penny you can is a very, very good idea, but that logic doesn't extend to simply dumping those pennies into a savings or money market account. You're losing money by dumping too much cash into your savings account. What's worse is that due to the lovely magic of compounded growth, you actually lose more money the longer you put off investing in other vehicles with a higher rate of return.

If you're willing to commit to more long-term investments, there are plenty of choices.

  • Max out your 401(k) contribution: If you have a day job and your employer offers matching 401(k) contributions, you should strongly consider increasing/maxing out your contribution. If your employer is willing to hand you free money, which is put into one of the best investment vehicles available, you should take it, and take as much of it as you possibly can. Use your poker profits to make up the gap in your paycheck(s) each month that results from increasing your contribution.

  • Set up a variable universal life insurance policy: Not everyone is aware of these but they're pretty attractive investment options. Variable universal life insurance is exactly that, life insurance, but with a twist. You can invest your policy’s cash value in a wide range of investment options, including stocks, bonds, and money markets. Your policy’s cash value will increase or decrease depending on your contributions and the performance of your investment choices. That said, no matter the performance of the investment choices it still pays out the base amount for life insurance, in the unfortunate event that you die. What's even better is that it's tax-deferred and there are no penalties for early withdrawals (unlike IRAs where you're hit with early withdrawal penalties). Setting up the policy is pretty easy and almost all major home/auto insurers also offer variable universal life insurance policies.

  • Invest in index funds: If you want to invest in stocks but are afraid of buying individual equities, index funds are a great choice, especially Vanguard Index Funds. Index funds essentially try to mirror the results of larger indexes and groups of stocks or bonds. Index fund managers basically buy all of the individual equities in a target index or attempt to replicate it as closely as possible. They don't use traditional active money management techniques or take large positions on individual stocks or sectors. Indexing is a passive investment approach that emphasizes diversification within a designated market segment and low portfolio trading activity. The goal is to allow you to invest in segments and markets with as little risk and variance as possible. If you want to invest in equities but fear short-term fluctuations, index funds are a great choice, especially ones with very low annual fees such as the Vanguard funds.

  • Invest in mututal funds: Most people know about mutual funds, so I won't spend much time here. Nothing wrong with mutual funds, just keep an eye on the annual fees that you pay, as they vary widely. Mutual funds usually return less than index funds and have higher fees. They also are typically less volatile and more likely to return a positive, smaller return.

  • Invest in individual equities: Again, pretty self-explanatory. Buying individual stocks is much more risky than buying index funds or mutual funds but it also has the highest potential return. Researching and selecting good stocks is a lot of work and even the experts get it wrong, but it's not rocket science, so don't feel intimidated if you've never invested in individual stocks. Like poker, the key is to do your research then be patient.

  • If your poker profits include affiliate money, then you have an extra potential wrinkle to add into the mix. While it depends slightly on your situation, you really should consider setting up a corporation for any affiliate money, even if it doesn't on the surface seem to be worth it.

    You can incorporate in most states for anywhere from $100-$500 dollars, usually on the lower end of that scale. The paperwork is fairly minimal and you can do it all yourself, without the need (and expense) of a lawyer. You'll have to file assorted documents throughout the year with state and federal governments. Don't be fooled, it's sort of a pain in the ass, especially if you don't like paperwork.

    There are however, some nice advantages to incorporating, especially if you make a decent amount of affiliate money and you're the only employee of your corporation. The biggest advantage is that you can set up a SEP IRA (Simplified Employee Pension Plan), which is very similar to a traditional IRA account but one that allows you to constribute up to 25% of the compensation paid to you by the corporation (up to $41,000 or so) in pre-tax dollars in an IRA account. This is a very good thing and can be set up in addition to any existing IRA account you have. It's also very flexible, as you can contribute at any time during the year, any amount you like.

    Aside from a way to invest affiliate profits in a tax-deferred vehicle, incorporating for the affiliate side of things also allows you to potentially write off all sorts of related expenses, such as Internet access, office supplies, computers, furniture, monitors, trips to Vegas, etc.

    If you incoporate as a S Corporation, any profit/loss falls directly to the bottom line of your annual income, so a paper loss from the corporate activites can actually give you a bit of a break on your personal taxes when it's tax time. So having a booming, successful affiliate business isn't exactly a prerequisite to incorporating, although it doesn't hurt.

    Monday, June 13, 2005

    Jebus, Why Art Thou Taunting Me?

    I make a real effort to approach work with a better attitude this week and within 15 minutes I've been reduced to gasket-poppin', throw-feces-at-the-zookeep simian rage. No bueno. Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean...

    My fickle mistress poker did much the same yesterday, wiping out most of the gains of the last week in a few fell swoops. Some days I feel like I have a good handle on the game (and myself) and all it takes are a few bad rivers to send me flying into the foul pit of despair.

    I'm definitely struggling with that on the 15/30 level. Definitely not doing well with keeping the poker rage at the poker tables, and letting it affect my general mood. It's eye-opening and, like other painful things, probably a good learning experience.

    I pretty much play every day, at least a bit. For the last week I'd been steadily chipping up, raking some nice pots here and there, playing solid, good starters holding up, hitting some draws here and there. I'd been playing pretty short sessions, calling it quits when I was up, sometimes just playing half an hour or so. As of Sunday morning I was up about $2,400 for the week. Cue foreshadowing music of doom.

    Things went south pretty quickly on Sunday. A couple of huge pots getting yanked from my grubby paws by river two-outers didn't help. Getting pissed didn't help. Playing too long didn't help. By the time the smoked cleared I was only up $800 for the week, dropping about $1,600.

    And therein lies the rub. Making $800 last week playing poker isn't a bad thing. Having a part-time gig that paid me $75/hour for clicking mouse buttons is amazing. Yet I was in a pissy, grumpy mood all day yesterday and still am fairly pissed today.

    Hopefully, like many things, this will be cured with time and experience, as far as logging more hours at bigger tables, and knowing what to expect, and fine-tuning the internal pissometer to only get upset when it's truly warranted. While I know, logically, that a 50 BB downswing is not only normal but inevitable, in the grand scheme of things I'm not that far removed from that downswing meaning I dropped $100, instead of, you know, a decent used car.

    In happier news, I absolutely kicked our yard's ass this weekend. Obliterated it. Destroyed it. Made it beg and cry for its grassy moms. If only I didn't leave in Texas where it'll grow 8.2 inches while I'm at work today.

    Pretty interesting article here on about start-ups funding themselves via online poker.

    Nothing else to see. Move along.

    Friday, June 10, 2005

    Olga and Her Man Hands

    Working off a monthly blackjack bonus last night suddenly stirred memories of a few little vegas tidbits that I'd forgotten.

    ScurvyWife and I were at the Wynn, and she was watching me play a wee bit of blackjack. I was at third base with two other players, one was a vaguely Middle Eastern youngish guy that didn't really know what he was doing and the other was a very talkative, fairly drunk, pretty attractive young lady. Attractive young lady basically knew what she was doing except for doubling on soft hands like A5 versus dealer showing a 4. She's debating that very situation, and the dealer mentions she can double if she wants, she ponders it, and same random loser dude walking by stops, looks at the hand, and tells her she should stand, don't listen to the dealer. She asks him "Really" and he confirms that she should stand. She asks him why he isn't playing then, and just giving her advice, and he says he only plays at bigger tables and is on the way to "cash in a marker".

    She looks at me and I simply tell her "You have 6 right now. You should double but at least hit. It's hard to do much worse than 6." Loser dude interjects again that that's wrong, that she should let the dealer bust. Dealer and I look at one another. Attractive young lady finally decides to hit, gets a 10, stands on 16. Dealer busts. Loser dude says "See, I told you," and walks off.

    ScurvyWife and I were talking about it later and I mentioned that the most surprising thing about the whole exchange was that the dealer knew what she was talking about, which often isn't the case. Cue foreshadowing.

    The morning we checked out I killed some time playing blackjack at the Strat. Olga, a Eastern-European sounding dealer with the largest set of man hands I've ever seen, was cleaning me out, along with two other degenerate guys playing blackjack at 8 in the morning. This was not putting me in the best of moods, as she kept drawing out, again and again again.

    I get A7 versus her face card. I motion to hit, she pauses and waits. I motion to hit. She just stares at me. Trying to remain polite, I say "Please hit me" and motion again for a hit. She finally, grudgingly does, turning over a 2, and gives me a dark, evil look, as if I rubbed rattlesnake bones across my face and started chanting some black voodoo curse. She also, of course, proceeded to flip over a 5, then another five, to draw to 20 and push with me.

    Literally five hands later (all wins for her, I think), I have A7 again, and she has a face card showing. I sigh, already knowing what's coming. Instead of my normal little subtle finger crook signifying I want a card, I reach my whole damn monkey paw out, waving towards the table, loudly saying "Hit me." Olga just stares at me, man hands motionless. "I would like another card." Still nothing. "For the sake of all that is holy and good, I swear upon the wee baby Jebus' curly head that I do, indeed, understand what I'm doing and want another freaking card!" I shouted, gesturing wildly, arms flailing.

    (Okay, so it was more like "Please ma'am, I know I have a soft 18 but I want another card. Please deal it to me.")

    Face card gives me 18, Olga has 20.

    Five minutes later I have A7 versus a face card. I barely get into my routine and she hits me with a 3. Victory is mine. Until she proceeds to draw to 21. I color up and flee, defeated by the man hands.

    Thursday, June 09, 2005

    Agro Agro

    Got the preliminary okay from ScurvyWife (thanks ankhorahil for the inspiration behind that moniker) for my mini-take-a-shot-plan, as far as not immediately seeking gainful employ when I blow this popstand. I still need to firm up a departure date in my head, instead of the amorphous current as-long-as-I-can-stand-it one, but it feels good to have that card up my sleeve, in the event things continue to spiral downward here.

    Things are still clicking along nicely in the 15/30 waters. Part of me keeps expecting the ceiling to collapse, but more and more I'm feeling comfortable, slowly but surely trusting my reads and not being intimidated by the action.

    Confidence is an odd bird. I have this tendency to voluntarily devalue my own currency, for no real reason other than I like being the modest, quiet person who you'd never guess was good at X, Y, and Z. By and large, that's a good person to be. In relation to poker, though, I think it can ultimately be a handicap, especially when moving up in limits. There's a certain point where you have to start cranking up the relentless bastard knob, aggressively willing more chips to come your way, even when you may not have the best of it. It's more a different mindset than anything, when you sit down, but it's something I'm working on.

    It is a struggle, though, especially with the aggressiveness at higher limits. On the one hand, solid ABC poker pays off in many cases. On the other hand, there are definitely some lessons that you have to re-learn. A few cases in point from recent play. all at Party 15/30 games:

    (Normally I cringe to post anything resembling hand histories, especially at higher limits, fearful I'm exposing myself as a rube way over my head. But, you know, what the hell, and I definitely wish myself that more of the folks cruising higher limits would post example hands from time to time.)

    1) I'm in the SB with KJo. Folds to MP+1 (uber LAG) who open raises, I call, BB calls.

    Flop is A J 5, rainbow. I check, BB checks, MP+1 bets. I fold, BB folds, MP+1 shows 88 to rub it in.

    Lesson: MP+1's range is pretty large as far as hands to open-raise with, basically any pocket pair, any Ax suited, any two cards 10 or higher. He's going to bet (and likely raise) until he's given a reason to slow down. Players at higher limits will open-raise with a much wider range of hands. On the flip side, players defend their BBs with a much wider range of hands as well. With middle pair and good kicker against an uber LAG in that situation, I should be check-raising, not folding. If the BB folds and MP+1 re-raises, then it's decision time, as far as folding or check-calling to the river, assuming the board doesn't get scarier. I should probably fold a majority of the time, but not always. If the BB comes along for the ride then I should definitely fold to any more bets.

    2) I'm in MP with KJs. Folds to me, I open raise. Folds to button who three-bets, SB folds, BB calls, I call.

    Flop is 4 8 J, rainbow. BB checks, I bet, button calls, BB calls.

    Turn is 9. BB checks, I bet, button raises, BB cold calls. I think for awhile and fold.

    River is a 2. Button bets, BB calls. Button shows 10 10 and BB wins the pot with J5s.

    Lesson: I gave the button too much credit due to his three-bet preflop, as many aggressive players will three-bet a wide range of hands in that situation (88 and higher pairs, AK-A10s, any two suited cards higher than 10, AK-AJo). Aggressive players also like to wait until the turn to pop it, even (especially) when they're on a draw. I read his raise as a set or AJ. I did consider 1010, with the 9 putting the possible straight draw out there, but assumed he would have raised the flop with 1010 on that board, trying to gain information.

    When the BB called his raise cold, more warning bells went off in my monkey brain. Basically the same range as the button, plus Q10, as well as all sorts of junk two pair hands that the BB might defend with like J8, J9, etc. I sat there a second or two, saw no way I was winning this hand, and folded.

    The problem here is that the pot is too big for me to fold, when I'll likely only have to pay two more BBs to get to showdown. Yeah, I'm not winning this hand many times (too lazy to crunch the actual numbers), but I win it enough to take it to showdown, especially if I'm likely to get there with just two more bets (possibly one, especially if the button bets a river blank and gets called or raised).

    My first mistake was not adjusting to the aggression, as far as the turn-reraise and what it might signify, and for discounting the possibility of the BB defending with Jx suited. Given the board and the propensity for aggressiveness and the willingness to defend blinds, he could have a whole slew of hands, including middle pair, bottom pair, AQ, A10, etc.

    The second mistake (and the one I really need to work on) is that I'm acting too quickly at times, using my previous experience to guide me in making almost automatic judgements and snap decisions. That's fine at 1/2 and 2/4, where a lot of that knowledge was built up, but not at higher limits. The timer is there for a reason and the pots are too large to be making a monkey mistake just because you're on auto-pilot, flying with an outdated manual.

    Wednesday, June 08, 2005

    This Place Is Definitely Not Vegas

    Many thanks Maudie, Heafy, and Drizz, for the encouraging words on the previous post. I'm probably 95% pot committed to the plan but extra nudges are always nice.

    I do have to admit that part of me is mightily tempted to give the full-time poker gig a go. The idea of solely relying on poker for an income scares me, honestly, and at heart I'm not a true gambler, in the real sense of the word. Calculated risks, yeah, sure, I'm in, but I don't like leaving things to chance. Especially when it comes to pay mortgages and insurance and what-not.

    I still can't get over how badly the majority of people play poker, and the amount of money they're willing to put at risk doing so. Well, that's too harsh. It's not even necessarily "bad" play, just play that gives them absolutely no chance of being a long-term winner. Taking advantage of that play isn't very difficult, if you're willing and patient. At a certain point it becomes an exercise in math, more than anything. If the standard deviation of whatever limit you're playing is smaller than your bankroll, you win. If the standard deviation is larger, your risk of losing is inversely propotional to your skill.

    That said, I still don't think I have the stones for it. Or my safety net isn't quite large enough yet. Take your pick. But there's definintely something to be said for Heafy's advice, as far as your likelihood of success increasing dramatically if you take the plunge and insert yourselves in situations where failing simply isn't an option.

    Switching gears a slight bit, I have to say that I was pretty amazed by my foray into live poker, even at the 2-4 tables. I expected the overall quality of play to be lower than 2/4 online, but I didn't expect it to be quite so muppetish. Most of my poker play was one session at MGM and I had an older lady to my immediate left who not only saw every single flop, but she'd grunt and visibly shake her head, in a negative fashion, when turn and river cards fell that she didn't like. I think Caro missed the grunt/head shake tell in his book, but I managed to pick up on it pretty quickly. 'Cause I'm savvy like that, see.

    Then there was the drunk younger Asian guy on my right who kept getting hands cracked, who'd comment out loud before everyone had acted. He was in the BB when I limped UTG with 22, and a lady a few seats down somehow got confused and said "call" but pitched out $4. As she was saying that she just meant to call and was taking back $2, Asian guy mutters, "Yeah baby, go on and raise, I've got aces." Three or four people limp, Asian guy raises, and I go ahead and call, fully believing that he does indeed have aces but willing to pay one more bet to see a flop.

    Which comes K 2 10, and we're off to the races. He eventually slows down when another K comes but I take down a pretty nice pot. Which of course leads to the inevitable "Man, what the hell are you doing calling me with a pair of 2s?" conversation, and I mumble something about feeling lucky.

    Granted it was 2/4, but still pretty interesting. I definitely need to make a point of playing live more, as it's definitely more engaging and entertaining than clicking mouse buttons, even if less profitable overall. It's a bit of a hike to Louisiana but not that bad, especially if I can sneak away for a four day weekend here and there.

    Tuesday, June 07, 2005

    My Brain is Full

    If you haven't already seen, good ol' Party Poker is offering a 25% reload bonus this month, up to $150, valid until June 8th, bonus code BONUSJUN. One thing to note is that they're slightly savvying up, and have added to their terms the little nugget that if you withdraw from your Party account during the bonus period and then redeposit for the bonus, bzzt, nope, no bonus soup for you.

    Played in an limit Omaha Full Tilt bracelet race last night, finishing 4th. Doh. Fairly frustrating, as we were all pretty equal when it got down to six players, but I went completely card dead at the absolute worst time, got eaten up by blinds, and finally had to push with a less than spectacular hand. I was pretty amused the whole time at the potential irony of winning a seat to one of the WSOP events the day after we got back from Vegas but nay, it was not to be.

    Got mugged at the 15/30 tables. Not the start I was looking to, after getting the gambling fires good and stoked in Vegas. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever completely make peace with the fickle nature of poker. Ended the evening losing a $800+ pot when I flopped the nut flush, capped action all the way to the river, at which point the raising monkey UTG fills his boat, catching running 2s to go with his Q2o. I (heart) poker.

    I'm feeling sort of stuck these days. In an odd, largely good way, but stuck nonetheless.

    Despite degenerate evidence to the contrary, I've never been a big risk taker. My thirty years on the planet have been pretty damn orderly, as far as school, then immediately to college, then immediately to grad school, then basically immediately (minus a year) into a decent paying corporate gig. That was the plan, by and large, with the idea that I'd work for awhile, save lots of money, then take some time off to give the writing thing a serious shot.

    Mission accomplished. Except, umm, I'm still stuck at this craptacular day job. I also acquired a mortgage and a wife that I didn't necessarily plan on possessing at this stage of the game. All of which are good things, just slightly unexpected.

    Which leaves me wondering just what the hell I should do. I can't take much more of the day job. I can laugh at most of the ridiculous stuff, but at the end of the day it's the larger mindset that wears me down, as far as treating the general monkey worker population here like crap, knowing that they're largely trapped behind the zoo walls, given the fact that aren't a plethora of other editorial-type gigs that people with liberal arts degrees can land in this town.

    The smart, logical thing to do is to look for another job, which I've been doing. While my MFA and mad poker skillz aren't exactly wowing potential employers, more than likely I'll eventually be able to find a Web editor and technical writer gig somewhere. And that'll be fine, likely a slight paycut, but basically any employer other than my current one would be a step up, as far as general happiness and mindset at work.

    Except there's a slight, tiny rub. If I do that, I'm settling for the safe and logical, once again. And there's nothing wrong with that. Really. But more and more I find myself itching to take a shot.

    In a backwards way, going to Vegas was sort of a catalyst. Not because of all the gambling and the poker and what-not, but more the general collection of souls on all ends of the spectrum, taking their own shots. The broken and busted rubbing shoulders with the Gucci soled. People tossing their last chip in, the doomed results already written in the slumped curvature of their spines. Reading Homeboy on the plane back, completely fucking blown away by the raw energy and life someone pumped into desperate, printed words.

    This isn't going where you think it is. I'm not even really talking about poker. The biggest thing I regret is not giving the writing thing a shot after grad school. I got half of the equation right, as far as knowing myself well enough to realize that I wouldn't get much done trying to juggle a job and writing. I flubbed the other half, though, as far as the timing, as the perfect time to give it a shot was right after grad school, when I had nothing else distracting me. But that's pretty easily rectified, with a little hard work.

    So here's the new deal I just cut with myself. Work my ass off for the next three months, as far as assorted business stuff, work stuff, poker stuff, the whole nine yards. All profits get earmarked and squirreled away into a special fund. Quit my job, cash in my vacation time, and add it to whatever I've saved. Pay money from that fund into our joint checking account, at the same rate of pay as my current job produces. Write my ass off until the money runs out.

    I can probably buy myself 2-3 months, assuming my poker game doesn't suddenly implode. Which should be more than enough time to finish the short story collection moldering on my hard drive, plus a novel. Then back to the grind, finding a job somewhere, being respectable again, all that good stuff.

    That's the current plan, at least. We'll see how long it lasts.

    Monday, June 06, 2005

    Uber Vegas

    Okay, first things first, I suck.


    I knew my degenerate time would be a bit limited this go around, but I badly understimated just how much time would be sucked up in the performance of husbandly duties. Staying at the Stratosphere was likely not the best choice, either, making it hard to sneak out for some free time here and there, given distances involved.

    While I did get to play a goodly bit of poker with helixx and ankhorahil at MGM early on Friday, I only got in a few orbits at Excalibur. I did, however, get to personally witness CJ whip out quad 7s when dropping the hammer, which sent some poor lady scrambling for the exit, steam emanating from her ears.

    Saturday was more of the same, as plans to hit up the after party evaporated into a touristy haze of white tigers and lions, sharks, and Blue Men.

    So yeah. I suck. I barely had time to meet anyone, and when I did, it was pretty much limited to Hey, yo, nice to meet you. It wasn't out of shyness or lack of desire or any damn thing like that. I was just honestly and truly occupied the whole damn time, and not willing to abandon the better half or convince her that she should forget about the stuff she wanted to do her first time in Vegas, so that she could instead come with me to meet a bunch of poker folks.

    That said, I had a really good time. It sounds sort of hokey, but my wife and I have a really good time, and it was her first time in Vegas, and in the grand scheme of things I'm glad I manage to swallow my degenerate pride and make sure she had fun. I also think I likely managed to build up enough credits to make the trip solo in the future, assuming there's another gathering of blogger souls, at which point I can truly partake in the festivities.

    But yeah. Vegas.

    We got in around 6 on Thursday, checked in, surveyed the landscape. I was a bit surprised as far as the Strat. Definitely not nicey-nice but it wasn't bad, especially considering that we ended up paying something like $20/night with the package deal we got. We grabbed some food and my wife expressed the desire to play slots for the first time. We sat down and plunked some money in penny slots. I was playing some Sea Monkeys game, not really paying attention, and suddenly the machine was blowing up, spinning on its on, blaring the theme song from The Monkees. And it kept going, and going, and going. My wife is finally like "What the hell is it doing? Make it shut up." At which point I realized that I'd just won $300, when it finally stopped. Sweet. The wife finished up $70 or so, at which point we quickly fled.

    Walked around a bit, down to the Wynn. Pretty nice, all in all, but Jebus that's a tiny, cramped poker room. Hung out there for awhile, played a little blackjack, played some more slots, called it a night.

    Friday we checked out the Rio, getting there right before Event #2 started. Pretty crazy, all in all, and I was definitely kicking myself for not just buying in, as it's hard to walk around, watching, when you're thinking "Damnit, I could be dead money, sitting at the table, just like all these other muppets." At which point my wife casually says to me, "Why didn't you just sign up for this and play?"

    (To rewind a bit, the main reason I didn't just buy in was because we have a working agreement that I'm free to gamble as much as I want, at whatever limit, as long as I don't start talking specifics with her. She trusts me, but if I start talking hard numbers, she'll get nervous and want me put it in a savings account or something respectable like that. I didn't see any way around that, as far as plunking down $1,500 to play, as my reasoning would have been "Wifey, I just plunked down $1,500 to play in a poker tournament, but it's okay, as I'm still ahead (insert dollar amount) for the year." So I didn't buy in, which likely saved me $1,500, but, you know.)

    So I explain to her just how much it was to buy in, to which she responds, "Yeah, I know." I then, for the sake of clarification, ask her if she is, indeed, saying it would have been okay for me to do that. To which she casually responds "Sure, you've done really well, you should have done it. I kept expecting you to ask me if it was okay."

    Doh. Note to self: give wife more credit sometimes.

    Hit up the MGM later that day with helixx and ankhorahil, playing 2/4, which was, umm, interesting. I mentioned this way back when, but I'd actually never played a single hand of hold 'em live. Never. So I was a little bit nervous, just as far as not wanting to do something stupid and screw up the blinds, act out of turn, etc. We all sit down at the new table they opened, buy chips, all that good stuff. I was actually hoping for a trashy hand, just to muck it and watch the action.

    I'm sitting in late position and look down to find 10 10. Four people limp in, so I just limp, and we have something like six to the flop. Which is 10 10 5. At which point I'm thinking "Hmm, this live stuff is so freaking rigged." I slowplayed as much as I could, getting a little action from a guy with 7 7. No spinning wheel or high hand jackpots at MGM but still, not bad, quad 10s the first hand out of the chute.

    I ended up booking a nice little profit, despite not catching much in the way of cards. Grabbed some food, then made it over to the Excalibur for a brief stint at 4-8 at the same table with CJ, BadBlood, and some other bloggers whose names I didn't catch. Got absolutely no cards, folded a lot, then had to go collect the wife.

    Not much to say about the blogger tournament at the Aladdin that hasn't been said, as far as the crapshootastic structure. I had a decent stack but managed to get myself commited with AJo on a semi-steal, called the all-in, and ran into AKs in the BB. That left me with a couple of BBs, so I felt compelled to push with K2s in the SB when it folded around to me. Hank called with K10o, no soup for me, and I was done, busting out 42nd or so.

    I did, though, manage to pick up Joe Speaker's most excellent bounty, the book "Homeboy" by Seth Morgan. It's been a long time since I've read a Holy Shit book, one that I stay up until 3 in the morning reading, slightly amazed, shaking my head, but that one fits the bill. Anyone with a single degenerate bone in their body should track down that book and read it. Holy shit. Thank you, good sir, for such a veritable bounty.

    The rest of Saturday was sort of a touristy blur, hitting up the observation deck and pool at the Strat, sharks at Mandalay Bay, Blue Man group at the Luxor, tigers and dolphins at the Mirage, silly Nascar stuff at the Sahara, and other stuff I'm forgetting at the moment.

    Sunday we checked out, hit up the penny slots again, where we somehow defied the odds and scored again. While I'm not complaining, at all, there's definitely something amiss in the universe when penny slots come close to paying for your trip.

    Got back home Sunday night and crashed.

    Which brings us to today. With me sitting here at work again, bored out of my skull. More later.

    Wednesday, June 01, 2005

    When Time Stood Still

    And there's someone at Bloglines HQ right now looking at traffic stats, thinking "Sweet merciful Jebus, stop hitting refresh, you bored, not-getting-any-work-done bastard!"

    I'll buy anyone who can re-start time a double SoCo in Vegas.

    Is It Thursday Yet? Is It Thursday Yet? Is It Thursday Yet? Is It Thursday Yet?

    So, umm, yeah. I gots nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

    I did manage to bang out a ton of work on a side project the last few days. It's kind of a weird deal, as it's all likely completely for naught, in its current form, but I'll likely be able to plug it into assorted ventures moving forward.

    I'm not cool enough to have a real Vegas itinerary or anything like that. I'm also too recently married to have completely worked all of the kinks out of the husbandly duties/expectations system, having not quite yet reached the stage where I'm cut loose and only expected to show up at a prearranged meeting point, reeking of strippers, gin, and cigar smoke.

    We're getting into town around 8:00 Thursday night, staying at the lovely Strat. We'll probably wander around and do the gawking thing and get some food, with minimal rambling and/or gambling.

    I'm going to try to barter for Friday to be my designated degenerate gambler day. As far as the "serious" poker, I'll prolly stick to limit, likely 15/30, either at Bellagio or Wynn. Planning on getting that play in earlier in the day, then hitting Excalibur for the blogger mayhem later that night. I'll also wander over to the Rio to check on how all of you cool bloggers are doing in the $1,500 NL event, likely a few hours into it.

    Saturday morning is the WPBT event at the Aladdin, which, given how I'm running in tournaments lately, might last all of 15 minutes for me. No other real plans for Saturday. I promised the wife a nice dinner one night, so it'll likely be Saturday night. Which means we'll likely make an appearance at the after party, but one on the brief side. Yeah, I know, I suck...

    Then we arrive at Black Sunday, when we leave the fair city of Las Vegas and return to the boring, real world. Meh.