Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Much to Say About Poker

...and yet, little desire to say things about poker.

The last few weeks have been pretty interesting, poker-wise. In a twisted, car-wreck, can't-avert-your-eyes sort of way. I've never come close to a stretch like this before, where not only every villainous draw gets there, no matter how far behind they start, but that the deck itself seems rigged, as far as hitting my seeming money card, which in actuality turns out to be a two-outer that makes me a very expensive second-best hand. Not only does it seem like I'm playing with my cards face up, but that the deck was monkeyed with while I was in the bathroom, to maximize the pain.

Which wasn't much fun. At all. Determined to play through it, I soldiered on. And pretty much kept getting smacked down. Repeatedly.

The last few days, though, have returned to some sort of normalcy, as if the big lumbering tanker vessel is finally turning and changing course.

In the grand scheme o' things, it could have been worse. If you include prop and rakeback payments, I'm only in the hole $500 or so from poker for the month. We'll just ignore how much I got paid for propping and rakeback, as that's too depressing.
Ditto for my high water mark during the month, as I went on a tear early in the month, and bleed every bit of that back, plus some.

The wacky thing is that my silly sportsbetting and casino bonus tomfoolery ended up more than making up for the poker shortfall, so when you add it all up, my degenerate activities managed to produce a pretty hefty profit on the month. Like, umm, three times what I get paid for the silly day job. Which is good, obviously, but not something I can really count on, going forward, and more a freak of nature sort of occurence.

Despite the poker carnage, in a backwards way I'm almost glad I ran so poorly. And, honestly, played so badly at times, during the midst of the downswing. I realize things can always get worse, but that's about as bad a run as I can imagine, and that didn't even come close to breaking my pokery will.

As far as plans to give playing full-time a shot, those are pretty much still a go. The key thing there is that I'm mainly looking to take some time off and give it a whirl, but with the idea that it'll probably be a short-term thing. The carnage did clarify that a bit for me, as far as whether I have the psychological makeup to let the fickle nature of pixelated cards be the sole determining factor in whether I make money or not that month. And the answer is nay, not so much, not in the long run.

In the short run, sure, let's do it, to say I did it. But I like saving and hoarding money too much, methinks, and poker is the perfect lurcrative side job for that. Sole means of income? Meh, not so much.

So yeah, there you go. Terrible January, as far as poker. I sucked.

Bring it on, February.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sweet, Fickle Poker

So far the decision to add some 15/30 full ring into the mix has been nicely +EV, as I went on quite a little run last night. I would like to attribute it to my sick poker skills but, umm, it's easy to play well when you flop quads and nut flushes and have multiple Tazs at your table who take turns refusing to believe that they can't run over you with their second/third pairs.

I did give a bit of profits back, banging my head at 10/20 short again. I'm too stubborn to completely bail but I may switch things up next month, and primarily multi-table 15/30 full ring and see how I do. I think I can handle four 15/30 tables and one 10/20 short without sacrificing too much of an edge, so that may be the game plan for February.

I wish I had more 10/20 short experience under my belt, just to get a better fix on what to expect, and how to react to downswings. Fifteen days into the month and I was +$5,000 at the 10/20 tables, but since I've managed to bleed back the bulk of that, sitting at about +$500 right now. That doesn't include prop payments, but I'm inclined to not include that, as it's not at all indicative of my ability to beat any particular level nor can I necessarily depend on that revenue stream indefinitely, so I don't want to resort to being "profitable" only because of propping or rakeback, etc.

Per a comment request from a previous post, here be three hands from last night, one that I think I played horribly, one that I played well, and one of the truly sick variety.

How To Completely Butcher a Poker Hand

10/20 LHE, 5 players. I'm in the BB with AsAc.

Action folds to CO, who raises. CO is pretty bad, all around, and overly aggressive. He loves to take stabs at scary boards with absolute trash, even 3-betting/capping, then firing again on the river. He's the sort of player that doesn't mind losing sessions as long as he "gets you good" a few times and causes you to fold a better hand on the river to his trash.

Button 3-bets. The button, however, is one of the best players on the site, and pretty damn savvy. He's more than likely 3-betting light here in an attempt to isolate CO. I've played a ton of hands with him and he thinks I'm weak tight (for good reason), so a cap from me would basically be the same as telling him I have KK-AA. There's also a great likelihood that CO will cap anyway, as he's prone to do that.

I cold-call, CO caps, button and I call.

Boo, me. Just calling instead of capping isn't the worst play in the world, for the reasons above, but I'm getting unnecessarily fancy here. The button knows that I'm decent enough that I have a pretty big hand, whether I cap or not, plus even if he's raising light in an attempt to isolate, he's not going to extend the attempt too far anyway once I come along for the ride, unless the flop hits him really hard. Odds are I'm going to end up bashing it out with the CO anyway, so I might as well take the lead, so that I can 3-bet him at will when he does his thing and raises my lead.

Flops comes Ah 8h 5h. I check, planning to check-raise CO's inevitable stab at this. CO, however, checks, as does the button.

Super boo, me. If I think CO is going to play at this, I have to bet, so that he can hopefully raise and knock the button out (and any potential heart he might have in his hand, no matter how wee). Even if he raises and both come along it's a pretty easy 3-bet/cap for me. I have to get a bet of some sort in, just to charge anyone with a single big heart, so I can't check and rely on the kindness of strangers to do it for me.

Honestly, much of the bad play here on my part is directly related to my recent downswing at 10/20, as I'm already seeing the hearts four-flush that'll inevitably hit on the river to crack my aces. Instead of envisioning ways to extract full value from my awesome hand, I'm pre-emptively turtling up, cringing, expecting the worst.

Turn is 7h, putting Ah 8h 5h 7h on the board. I check, CO checks, button checks.

Do we see a pattern here? I've managed to completely and utterly fuck up this hand, in nearly every way possible, as I have no clue where I'm at, no momentum, nothing. If I bet and get raised by the CO, who loves to raise on boards like this with nothing, can I lay it down? I can't on the turn, obviously, as I still have lots of outs, but what about when he fires again on the river? If I bet, get raised, and the button comes along (or raises himself), I'm definitely behind, as the button definitely has a hand there.

But that scenario completely clarifies my river decision, as it's an easy fold then if the button bets. I have 8-10 outs on the river regardless, so why I'm suddenly acting like a girly man and checking, fearful of a raise, I do not know. It's also not impossible (just unlikely) that I'm still ahead, even on the turn.

River is 5c. I bet, CO folds, button folds.

Nice. I misplayed every other street, why not the river? I have to check this, hoping someone takes a stab at it with a wee/mid heart, or that someone is slowplaying the Ah. If it checks through, it checks through, and at least they get to see my hand and what a complete and utter lemur I am, playing AA that way.

How To Play a Hand Reasonably Well

10/20 LHE, 3 players. I'm in the BB with Kc10d.

Button raises, SB folds, I call. Button is better than average, and his range for a raise here is probably 55 and up, any A, any two cards 10 or higher, any two suited cards with a K or Q. He likes to wait to the turn to raise, especially with straight/flush draws, but also with overcards. He also has a hard time folding A high on the river, and will often make dodgy calls to look you up, and will almost always take a stab on the river if checked to, instead of the free showdown.

Flop is Qc 9c 4h. I check, button bets, I raise, button calls.

The flop is largely meh for me but I do have the gutshot plus one overcard. He's been running over me a bit so I chose to poke him, instead of simply calling and folding the turn unimproved. My plan is take one more stab at it, leading on the turn, and that'll be the last money of mine that goes into the pot, assuming I don't improve.

Turn is 10s. I check, button bets, I call.

This is sort of an odd situation, as the 10 obviously helped me, but now I have a hand that I have to take to showdown, no matter what comes on the river, as given his range there's a strong likelihood that my hand is best.

If the turn had whiffed for me, I'd easily be able to fire out another bet and fold if raised, despite the fact that I know he likes to do that when he's still drawing. Now, though, he's just as likely to raise on a draw, but I can't fold my hand, so I'm committed to calling, then calling again to a river bet.

Yes, I'm giving him a potential free card by checking, but the only non-club card I really hate is an A, as I'm already behind a Q if he has it, and a K or J helps me. If he hits the club flush, so be it, as I can't push him off that anyway, given his playing tendencies.

As far as simply calling his bet and not check-raising, see above. Simply calling also encourages him to potentially bluff the river again if he misses (or he has a 9 or a 10 with a weaker kicker) and is checked to, as I'm likely not going to lead with my middle pair on the river anyway.

River is 2d. I check, button bets, I call. Button shows Ac 9h and I take the pot.

My check-raise on the flop is a little dodgy, as I often get 3-bet there, but I think the rest is pretty solid, as far as extracting the most value out of this particular opponent, given his tendencies.

How To Play Like a Completely Insane Lemur

15/30 LHE, 9 players. I'm on the button with 6c6s. Completely Insane Lemur limps from UTG, UTG+1 limps, folds to CO, who limps, I limp, SB calls, BB checks.

Flop is 6h 6d 3d. Completely Insane Lemur bets, UTG+1 folds, CO raises, I smooth call, SB folds, BB folds, Completely Insane Lemur 3-bets, CO calls, I call.

Turn is Ad, putting 6h 6d 3d Ad on the board. Completely Insane Lemur bets, CO folds, I raise, Completely Insane Lemur 3-bets, I cap, Completely Insane Lemur calls.

River is Kc. Completely Insane Lemur bets, I raise, Completely Insane Lemur 3-bets, I cap, Completely Insane Lemur calls.

Completely Insane Lemur shows 9h 3c, for a pair of 3s, 9 kicker. My quad 6s are indeed goot.

Umm, thank you?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Wait, Chips Are Moving My Way, What Gives?

'Tis nice to, you know, win money, instead of hemorrhage money. Not that I can thinking of any situation where hemorrhaging anything is good, except maybe hemorrhaging diamonds from ones rectum, and even that is sort of dodgy.

Although I nearly aborted the ultimately successful mission after exactly two hands last night. I'm dealt KK on the button, MP lemur (who is truly, truly terrible but plays regularly in the 10/20 games) open raises with 74o, folds to me, I three-bet, folds back to lemur, who caps.

Flop is 7h 5h 10c. Lemur bets, raise, 3-bets, cap.

Turn is Qd. Bet, raise, 3-bet, cap.

River is 7c. Lemur bets, I clutch my junk and call. Lemur wins.

Well played, sir, well played.

Those are the sort of hands and players that have been hammering me the last week or so. And yes, I fully realize that I want that to happen, and should welcome beats like the above, because in the long run I'll make much coin sitting with that very lemur. But it's hard to translate that abstract knowledge into tangible enthusiasm when losing hand after hand after hand like that.

But yeah, get thee hence bad beat stories. I persevered and managed to grind out a decent win at the 10/20 short tables.

I also booked a nice session at 15/30 at Party, returning to the full ring tables. I have to say it felt pretty nice, sitting back down with PokerAce HUD and PokerTracker fired up, with actual, you know, data at my disposal. You can definitely make good arguments on both side of the crutch/tool debate, as far as using programs like PokerAce and PokerTracker, but it's hard to argue with results. I immediately won a big hand early with JJ against an uber fish that I never would have pushed that hard if I didn't have 5,000 or so hands on him in my database.

It was also a nice change of pace from a psychological point of view, as far as not playing shorthanded, and taking a break from the always attacking, highly aggressive, push-any-potential-small-edge mentality that works best in shorthanded play. Obviously it's not a bad idea to play that way even at full ring tables, but you're not sacrificing as much potential edge, methinks, by adopting a slightly more conservative approach.

I also donked around in a couple of Full Tilt tourneys, to no real avail. I have this bad habit of playing well early, building a decent stack, then tangling with short stacks in the mid-late stages with speculative hands from early position like KQs, KJs, etc. I'll put a decent sized raise out there, mainly hoping to take down the blinds, but not hating it if a short-stack shoves (and easily willing to fold to a raise from a larger stack that can do me serious damage), at which point I'll be committed and can call. Which is exactly what happens and I'm racing with KJs for 1/5th of my stack. Which isn't the worst play in the world, but it's just not a spot I have to be in from early position, with a more than adequate stack to bide my time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Acquiring Junk Target...Yes, We Have a Lock

Getting kicked yet again in the poker junk was not how I wanted to spend yesterday. But, as a wise man once said, "You can't always get what you want."

I'm probably going to take a few days off and mull things over in my monkey brain. Methinks I grossly underestimated the variance of 10/20 short, especially after digging up a thread on 2+2 where assorted conservative estimates for a healthy bankroll playing 10/20 short clocked in at about 1000 BBs. Which is, umm, a big number, and not one I'd mentally digested or prepared myself for, as far as a potential, completely natural downswing that I might face.

I'm more than a little conflicted, as yesterday actually put me into the red for actual poker play during the month. Counting in prop payments, I'm still pretty solidly in the black, so the glass is still half full. So as bad as things have been, I'm still making pretty good money.

I look at the players I'm sitting with and the beats that have knocked my back over the last week or so, and I can't help but be encouraged. There are definitely a few regulars in the games that are much better than I am playing short, and I tip my hat to them. But there are also regulars who fundamentally misunderstand how to play poker (including the guy from a previous post that didn't understand that his small pocket pair of 22 was counterfeited by the two larger pair on the board, thus giving him a 2 high hand), yet are willing to shove literally thousands of dollars into the game.

I'm not dead money in these games. This I know. I still have much to learn about playing short, but I have enough skill to be beating this games. But I'm also not sure I'm ready to deal with the variance involved, at this stage of things. Especially when pondering about venturing out into the world of full-time poker player.

As far as how to proceed, well, I'm not sure. The stubborn side of me wants to keep tilting at the 10/20 short windmill, as things have to turn at some point. I realize that's dangerous thinking but I'll spare you the litany of absolutely ridiculous beats I've taken of late, that have contributed to dig the current hole I'm sitting in. And yeah, I know, it's all variance, and variance is variance is variance, but again, really, we're in probably 4 or 5 sigma territory, as far as the odds of this perfect little storm brewing.

But I also need to get my feet back beneath me, so I may return to the comfort zone of 15/30 full ring games for awhile, even though that means reduced prop payments, as the prop site almost never has full 15/30 games running. Or possibly split time between the two limits, so that I don't psychologically have so much riding on the fickle nature of 10/20 short.

Stupid poker. Why can't you just let me win every single hand, while I light cigars with Benjamins, instructing my monkey butler to click my diamond-encrusted mouse to make masterful plays as I recline on a king-sized bed with scantily-clad, buxom Swedish supermodels?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Putting the Swing in Swingy

Poker results have been all over the freaking map the last four or five days. I think I got lulled into a slightly false sense of security early on in my playing many, many hands experiment, as while I was multi-tabling 10/20 short, I wasn't experiencing any gut-wrenching swings in either direction. The volume of hands seemed to be smoothing out results a bit, which was nice.

Enter Lady Variance from stage left. And she's pissed, having been delayed by a flat tire or a thrown horseshoe or some sort of impediment to whatever demonic coach she travels in.

I managed to go into a -150 BB tailspin on Saturday, which was pretty relentless. Basically insert all the bad beats you can think of, in all varieties. For some reason, it was the day of the four flush, where I would start with a big pair, cap it with some lemur(s), flop a set, cap it again, cap the turn, only to lose on the river when the four flush hits the board and aforementioned lemur does, indeed, have 48o, with the 4 being hearts for the flush. I lost four different hands in exactly that fashion, all +$400 pots.

Not much fun. I played through it, though, and erased about half of the hole I'd dug.

Sunday, rinse, lather, and repeat. Pretty much from the first hand I was clutching my junk, moaning in pain. Before I know it I'm down another 100 BB or so. I just kept getting hands run down, over and over, or pumping the pot with 162 outs but never connecting.

Things turned around a little later on, and I finished up down -25 BB. So, for the weekend, I played many, many hands of poker and finished in the hole -100 BB. Sweet. I am teh poker bomb.

The kicker, though, is that I'm still on pace to make roughly double what I would at the day job, as far as monthly profits so far. That's the thing I have to keep in mind, especially on the fugly days. It's kind of stupid to gloss over the quietly profitable days in favor of bemoaning your fate on the junk-kicking days, especially when the quietly profitable days outnumber the junk-kicking days. So, you know, don't be stupid. No one said this was going to be an easy or non-disturbing endeavor.

In other news, pretty happy to see the Steelers and Seachickens in the Super Bowl. I don't have much reason to root for either team, other than I really didn't want to see Jake the Snake in a Super Bowl or hear another person mention that, dude, Steve Smith is really, really short. Mission accomplished.

Pay-per-viewed the Morales/Pacquiao fight on Saturday night, which didn't disappoint. PacMan is a heathen. How you hit someone (and get hit) that much and just get stronger and stronger as the fight progresses, I do not know.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Someone is the Man, and it Ain't Me

I could babble on about my second place finish in the HORSE tourney last night (thanks again April for setting that up), but some other blogger dude was busy taking down many many thousands of dollars in a tournament.

Congrats, sir. Gonna be hard for the poker blogosphere to top that one.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Two Things You Should Do Today

1) Go signup for April's HORSE tourney at FullTilt.

2) Send Absinthe good mojo, so you can claim to have played a role when he wins the whole damn tournament.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

There Are Much Worse Things Than Treading Water

I've been slowly chipping up this week at the poker tables, with no huge swings either way. Which is actually sort of refreshing.

For all you bonus junkies doing the Martinspoker bonuses, or thinking about doing them, apparently the decreload bonus code I posted is dead, so don't count on that one. The site never publicly offered it and CS has been removing it from accounts that deposited for it. The initial bonus of up to 600 euros and the 200 euro reload are very much alive, though. And for everyone that used "frogalog" as a referral when signing up, you also got a 25 euro bonus thrown in there, after 200 VIP points. I didn't know about that previously, so hey, cool, free money.

I'm still sort of amazed the stakes that some people will play, given their general understanding of the game. I realize people have many different motivations and underpinning financial situation, but still.

This may sound like a bad beat story, but no, don't break out the pitchforks, it really isn't. 10/20 shorthanded game, I have AA on the button, pretty bad player limps from UTG, I raise, we see the flop heads-up, which is K K 8.

He bets, I raise, he calls. Turn is 8.

He bets, I raise, he calls. River is 2.

He bets, I pre-emptively clutch my junk and call, prepared to see an 8, and he rolls over 22 and takes it down.

I mutter under my breath but another player lights into him, asking him how he can call with 22 on the turn. His answer? (Which I tend to believe, given how badly he played.) That he had had two pair and he thought I just had an A and was trying to scare him into folding.

You, sir, are the champion, my friend.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It Depends

Many thanks for all the comments on the post yesterday.

I think it's a pretty interesting question, and for me is the sort of thing that's making playing shorthanded infinitely more engaging of late. Because, really, the best answer often truly is "it depends," which means that you have to constantly be engaging your brain and adjusting your play, instead of just playing by rote memorization and mouse-clicking reflexes.

I can't argue with the logic of everyone that said to pump the pot pre-flop with your good hands, always three-betting, and getting as much money in against an inferior opponent playing any two cards, and power your way through the hand. That's the easiest answer and the one that fits most snugly with the prevailing poker wisdom out and about in the cosmos.

But there's also a danger in easy answers sometimes, and this might be one of those cases. Answering blind aggression with more brute aggression inevitably leads to, you guessed it, lots of aggression.

Instead of babbling on endlessly trying to answer an unanswerable question (well, ignoring the real answer of "it depends"), I'm just going to touch on some broader issues raised by the question and answers from yesterday, all of which play a role in trying to come to some sort of "answer" as far as whether or not you should ever three-bet in the scenario posited yesterday.

1) The Value of Disguise

You play a lot more heads-up pots in shorthanded games, as well as more hands per hour in general. You also play a lot more hands that go a river showdown. Unlike ring games, you quickly pick up information about your opponents' playing tendencies, and you nearly immediately have the chance to capitalize on it.

At the same time, you also inevitably broadcast much more information about your own playing tendencies. And it's a pretty serious mistake to say "Ahh, whatever, people don't really pay close attention, whatever." Because they do. And even if they didn't, in that particular game, you'd be a fool not to be aware of the value of disguise and mix up your play. Yes, it takes a little more thought, but that's what your big juicy poker brain is for.

Long story short, you want to avoid playing in a predictable fashion. True for any form of poker, really, but more so with shorthanded play.

Looping back to the post from yesterday, from the point of view of deception, I think it's pretty much a wash, as far as whether you simply call any raise from the button or always three-bet. Both give away no further information about the relative strength of your hand, simply that you want to continue to play.

One last thing to note, that no one touched on, is that the other players at the table are watching you and the button go to war, and gaining information the entire time. You won't always be facing a raise from the button, so be sure you keep that in mind, when it's CO that raises and everyone folds to you. It's a very similar situation, as far as how you respond to the raise, but CO has the advantage of watching you become entangled and react to many hands, whereas you may not have the same amount of information on him or her.

2) Momentum

The biggest argument for always three-betting pre-flop is that you gain momentum in the hand, plus you're first to act on the flop. Keeping in mind that the flop will miss you (and your opponent) 2/3s of the time, momentum is pretty damn valuable when you both whiff on the flop, but you bet out. Many opponents will just roll over in that situation and fold and you'll take the pot uncontested with Q high. Picking up uncontested pots like that is pretty vital when playing shorthanded, as otherwise the blinds will eat you up.

That momentum, though, comes with a price. You're out of position and contesting a decent-sized pot against a single opponent who can have any two cards. That's obviously not a bad situation, or even an unwelcome one, due to the fact that you're a superior player, but bad position is a pretty serious handicap, even heads-up against a lemur.

If you weighed all the above in an imaginary scale, I'd guess that the value of having momentum would slightly outweigh the disadvantage of being out of position the entire hand, and tip slightly towards the side of always three-betting.

3) Extracting Full Value from your Strong Hands

The real balancing act playing shorthanded is getting full value from your good hands. This is pretty agnostic to position and applies whether you're UTG, the BB, wherever. Throw out blinds and steals and bluffs and winning uncontested pots early and other things that largely cancel out one another and you're left with the source of your real profits: playing the best hand in such a way that you extract full value from opponents with good but second best hands.

It's pretty obvious, but if you three-bet someone and an A flops (and they don't have an ace), the action for a wide range of your possible hands just got killed. You bet on the flop, they fold. You check, they smell danger and check behind. You then bet on the turn, they fold.

(Yes, indeed, there will be instances where you 3-bet with AK, they have AQ, an A flops, and you go to war and win many bets. That's not the norm, though, so I'm going to acknowledge it then conveniently ignore it, as hands like that really take no thought or additional skill to play correctly.)

Let's say in that same scenario you simply call the raise pre-flop, and see that same flop with an A. If you check to the button, he will almost always bet, because that's what bad, overaggressive buttons do in that spot. And he'll do it all the way to the river. And you'll have the option, the entire hand, of either calling or check-raising, as you see fit.

While you lose momentum by never three-betting pre-flop, you gain the ability to extract more value from your strong hands on later, more expensive streets. Especially against opponents that aren't so good and act in predictable ways. The ability to wait to show interest in the pot by raising on later streets is pretty valuable, instead of tipping your hand early with a relatively inexpensive extra preflop bet.

I'd argue that if you look at the foundation of most big pots, you'd see a surprising number of them didn't involve a pre-flop three-bet or cap. Yes, you have the classic wars of big pairs going at it, pumping in many bets, but what you more commonly see are small pots that suddenly blow up on the turn/river, when someone gets there with two pair, flush, or straight and an opponent with a big pocket pair or TPTK refuses the believe they've been outdrawn.

4) The Range of Hands You Play from the BB

If you always three-bet preflop from the BB, you'll play a smaller range of hands than if you never three-bet preflop.

If you never three-bet pre-flop, you can play a much wider range of starting hands.

I don't think you can have the best of both worlds and play a much wider range of hands and always three-bet. I know, I know, that runs contrary to popular wisdom, if he's playing any two cards, but I don't think most of us are able to consistently bring heat like that, and continue to bring it, even in the face of repeated bad beats and suckouts and dominated hands. It's one thing to talk about, hypothetically, as far as relentlessly throwing in bets against a lemur that'd have the audacity to play like that, but it's another thing to pull that off in real world conditions. All I can say is try it, for many, many hands, and get back to me with the results.

In the end, this one largely comes down to personal preference, I think. If you like hammering away at overaggressive Stealey McGees, pick you spots more selectively and hammer away as hard as you can. If you'd rather dink and dunk and get involved in more hands (and face more tough, marginal decisions), you might be better off taking the road of lesser resistance, and calling pre-flop with a wider range of hands in lieu of three-betting.

So add all that up and what do you get? It depends. "Never" is a pretty damn strong word and really has no place in the discussion at all. If there's any value in all this babbling, it's probably exactly that, as far as avoiding being rigid in your thinking when it comes to poker, and thinking things through for yourself. People are successful poker players with all sorts of styles, so don't be afraid to experiment with your own approach and see what works for you, despite what monkeys like myself might advocate.

The most important thing is to take the time to think it though, not so much as far as whatever particular conclusion it is that you come to.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

You Make the Call

Scenario: You're in the BB in a shorthanded limit game. The button is a complete and utter maniac who will raise every time when it's folded to him, regardless of the cards he holds. The SB is very timid and folds nearly everything when facing a raise from the button. Post-flop, the button plays very poorly and largely relies on naked aggression. That said, he'll fold his cards like a hot potato when played back at and he's bluffing with nothing.

Theory: When everyone folds to the button (who naturally raises) and the SB folds, you should never, ever three-bet. Ever. Not even with AA. Simply call with any hand you intend to play, regardless of its relative strength.


(Edited to add: I'm just posing the above question. I neither advocate nor deny the theory in question.)

Okay, Poker, You Can Sleep in the Bed Tonight

Yeah, yeah. Amazing what a decent poker day after much junk-kicking can do for one's mindset.

I do need to work some kinks out of the poker system, though. A lot of my frustration (and resulting sub-optimal play) this weekend came from a pretty obvious source. I'm using the next few months as a test run to see if I can do the poker thing full-time, so I'm basically pretending that, indeed, I'm doing it full-time. Okay. Cool. So my basic game plan is to play tons of poker and try to get in 30-40 hours a week, and see where I'm at, results-wise. Easy enough.

Except it's a little painful (again, in a really obvious way) when you run poorly under that scenario. In the past, I'd have shut things down pretty quickly on Saturday, around about the time when I lost the third or fourth huge pot to the resident maniac who capped with 58o preflop and caps every street afterwards, rivering the gutshot straight to take down my flopped set of kings and/or aces. Easy call there, turn off the computing box, let it go, come back and fight another day.

In my pretend world, though, that's a much harder thing to do. Yes, indeed, I can still do it (and should have), but it's hard to make money when you aren't playing. While it's a no-brainer when poker is just a hobby and source of supplemental income, it's harder if that's where your income is solely derived. Time spent not playing is money lost, when you get down to brass tacks.

That said, it still should be a no-brainer, when you hit a certain frustration level. It's easy enough to take a few days off and cram more hours in later in the week. Or take a week off, and make it up later in the month. And so on. It's also not like I don't have other assorted ventures that can also generate income, so I need to get out of thinking that poker itself has to be a salary replacement, each and every day/week/month.

I've been tracking things on a daily basis, and I'm a little conflicted as to that approach. I think it's good, as it adds impetus to grind out hands and get my hours in, but I need to temper my expectations a bit, as the more important results are how I do over six months or a year. I'm still going to push pretty hard for the next few months, likely even harder than if I do it full-time, as I'm hoping to build up a nice cushion by the time I flee the corporate world. So far so good, but I need to not be so focused on the individual daily numbers I need to get there, as those are naturally going to yip and yaw all over the place.

Apologies for yet another introspective, useful only to me post. Be forewarned, though, as ye may have to put up with a fair number of these in the near future, as I work through assorted mundane issues in my head and get it down, all concrete-like, as a reminder for the future.

Don't fear, though, as I have some more strategy and poker bonus goodness simmering on the back burner.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Boo, Poker

Yesterday was a pretty frustrating exercise in getting kicked in the junk. Repeatedly. And then some more. And then a little more.

If I'm going to give this thing a whirl full-time, I guess it's good to experience days like that early on, before it's even more for reals when I actually, you know, quit my job.

I can deal with losing money, being the good degenerate that I am and having accumulated much experience in that arena. And I can get my head around the idea that both the frequency and magnitude of beats will increase as my volume of hands go up, especially when I'm playing at juicy tables with people who will cap any two cards pre-flop and call down to the river.

But man, it's hard to deal with putting in a solid eight hours, three tabling for most of it, and finishing the day with about a thousand dollars less than I started with. While I understand that idea in a theoretical sense and completely understand that it goes with the territory, I wasn't quite prepared for the fact that getting in that many hands is reasonably hard work. And pretty much my entire life if I partake in reasonably hard work for eight hours, there's something at the end of the day to fall back on. More money, the satisfaction of accomplishing some sort of task or goal, feeling good about helping others. Something. Anything.

Not so with the poker, though. And I knew this, yes, but experiencing it is another thing. And I'm also aware that I'll have entire weeks like this, in the future, even possibly months. Which is a little scary.

All that whining aside, things are still looking really good for the month so far, and prop payments will wipe out all of the losses from this weekend, plus possibly a little more. So all I'm really getting my panties wadded about is basically playing a shit ton of poker and breaking even for the week. Which is not exactly the end of the world, by any stretch of the imagination.

Switching gears, what the hell happened to NFL officiating crews of late? Being a ref is a horrible, thankless job, as not only is someone always pissed with any close decision you make, but any error is broadcast to the entire freaking world and replayed, over and over and over. I get that. Most of the time, you do an amazing job, getting bang bang calls right the vast majority of the time, even without the use of replay.

But this weekend, good sirs, you stunk up the joint. What the hell was that call in the Steelers-Colts game, that wiped out the Polamalu interception? That's the kind of shit that leads otherwise sane people to hatch conspiracy plots, as far as it being a better Super Bowl, ratings-wise, if the Colts are in it, as far as the Dungy human interest angle and ol' Peyton there, doing his chicken dance, trying to draw the defense offsides 162,182 times during the game. He caught the ball. He had possession. He caught it, rooted around on the ground for half an hour, started to pop up to run, dropped it, then recovered it. Interception. Steelers' ball.

As far as Bears-Panthers, umm, it's not that hard to see that the game clock expired. Really. There's no confusing people running around, doing stuff. All you have to do is watch the clock and the snap. That's it. There's no intangibles or wildcards or mitigating circumstances, as far as you getting screened on the play, or some obscure rule. All you have to do is watch the damn play clock and make sure the ball is snapped before Mr. Clock reads 0. Even worse, you should be playing pretty close attention when you realize it's going to be close, as far as the offense getting the play off in time. Yet somehow, someway, everyone misses that fact, allowing Rexy to throw an interception on a play that shouldn't have been a play.

Boo, refs.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Like Some Sort of Non-Sticking Glue

I sort of overdid the poker today, getting in a little shy of 2,000 hands or so. I also managed to get myself more stuck than I have for awhile, which was also the first time that's happened to that extent in the new workd order of pretending to play poker full-time.

I guess there's something to be said for being down $2,000 at one point and clawing back to show a loss of "just" $300, but I'm not sure what. Stubborness? Lack of good sense in selecting a hobby that doesn't involve such things? I managed to not overly freak out, though, took breaks, all that jazz, and things finally turned around towards the end.

I started playing three 10/20 shorthanded tables simultaneously today for the first time, which I think contributed to the slide a bit. I can handle the concentration aspect, for the most part, but it's definitely an eye-opening experience in junk-kicking when things go sour. The bulk of the losses came in a half hour window where I kept getting big starting hands that turned into big second-best hands, always running into the nuts. I may back it back down to two tables for now, until I build up a bit more of a cushion to not overly be concerned by such downdrafts, as they're gonna happen.

It's kind of interesting, too, as today was the first day I've found myself making errors from just being tired, after playing so much. In the recent past a 2 hour session was a marathon endeavor for me, and I never really had time to get tired. By tonight, though, I was getting pretty fried, and finally closed shop when I completely mis-read the board and somehow thought I had a straight when I only had, umm, four cards to the straight.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Random Hypothetical Question

Let's play pretend (sort of) and posit the following scenario:

1) A blogger-only 10 player NL SnG
2) Entry fee: $1,000
3) Winner gets an entry into the 2006 WSOP Main Event
4) Every entrant other than the winner gets a certain percentage stake in the winner.

Here's the question. If you had $1,000 to drop on such a thing, what do you think a fair percentage would be, as far as the stake each entrant would get in the winner? What would be most appealing to you, as far as balancing your outlay and potential reward? It also should be noted that part of the purpose is to send a blogger to the ME, so it's not entirely a selfish equation. Or maybe it is. I dunno.

Would every losing entrant getting a 5% stake in the winner, with the winner keeping 55% be an attractive proposition?

Would you, as a potential winner, want to retain more than a 55% stake if you're going to pony up $1,000 in a satellite to potentially win a WSOP seat?

Should it be 2.5% for each entrant, with 78.5% going to the winner?

Are none of these attractive when you can enter a satellite yourself for about the same cash outlay and keep 100% of your winnings to yourself?

Just curious. Many thanks for any and all input.

Early Voting in from Gambling Cosmos: Signs Point to Yes

If the gambling gods are commenting on the plan to give the full-time degeneracy gig a whirl, the early returns seem to support the idea that they're in favor of it. So far 2006 is treating me very, very well.

Propping is turning out to be really interesting in regards to playing on a low traffic site and being one of the regulars at the higher limits. The prop program where I mostly play at is structured in such a way that I have no clue who the other props are, so it's kind of fun to play guess the prop. The odd thing is that I'm not sure there are many, based on how often most of the regulars blow up and belittle players from time to time, and generally act like an ass. And I say "odd" only because the other prop program I signed up is for a different site, and I can almost never even sit at mid/high tables there, as it's full of props and the program only allows a certain number of props to sit at each table at one time.

I would have thought playing with largely the same people day in and day out would be more challenging than it is, as far as mixing up your play, encountering the same tough players, etc. So far, not so much. Two of the main donators in the games (both of whom play far too aggressively and pay far too little attention) are convinced I'm a complete moron, which I think helps.

I'm still baffled that something as simple as letting an overaggressive player bet your hand for you, all the way to the river, can cause them to go into such immediate tirades and epileptic fits, especially when you make such a "horrible" play as simply calling their raise from the BB with A8o, flop an ace, and check-call them to the river, when they continue to bet their unimproved K10o. The funniest part of the equation is that 90% of the time their response is to push even harder with even less, which is the wrong response, 90% of the time.

I do wish the site supported PokerTracker, though, so I could see just how abnormally well I'm running. I doubt this run is sustainable but I'm also not being smacked around by the deck. The Leatherass Principle also seems to be more pronounced now that I'm playing tons of hands, as far as the ability to pretty consistently get myself unstuck and show a decent profit for the day, by sheer stubborn dint of playing until I'm not stuck.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Martinspoker Bonuses

I've been playing at Martinspoker the last few days, and thought I'd share some info, as I hadn't heard of them before and they're offering some pretty crazy poker bonuses.

The site is part of the B2B network, which caters largely to European players. It's got decent traffic, but keep in mind the time difference, and what peak hours for Euro players would be as opposed to us monkeys here in the US. You'll usually find many more NL games but they usually have a decent number of limit HE tables running, although 5/10 is about as high as it goes. Everything is denominated in euros, including deposits and withdrawals, so keep that in mind, too.

The site markets itself in the "play with the crazy Europeans" vein, and boy howdy, it doesn't disappoint. I've had some pretty crazy swings here, because many players not only play aggressively, but they simply won't fold. Seriously, strap on your anti-tilt flak jacket, as I've had some absolutely huge pots pushed to people who kept capping with their gutshot and finally getting there, or calling 4 bets cold pre-flop with 95o and hitting.

The bonuses are kind of a slow grind to clear, but they're pretty hefty. They're also a little unique, especially the initial signup bonus. I'll basically walk through the steps below to get the three big bonuses they're currently offering, along with terms.

1) The initial signup bonus is a 100% match, up to 600€. That's right, kiddos, it's a $726 signup bonus. To get the signup bonus, you have to accumulate 3000 VIP points, which is the system the B2B sites use to track and reward bonuses.

Here's the catch. Even if you accumulate 3000 VIP points in a week, you won't immediately get the signup bonus. It's awarded 90 days after you create your account, assuming you've met the 3000 VIP point requirement. So if you signup today and somehow clear 3000 VIP points in one night (you won't), you'll get the 600€ signup bonus on April 11, 2006..

Yes, I know, that's really weird. But bear with me, as there's more that offsets the weirdness and makes this a really good deal.

So to maximize the value of the bonuses here, create an account and deposit 600€ using bonus code novdeposit. (I know that looks odd, with the "nov" part, but it's on their website now and it works.) The cashier will confirm that your bonus is valid, show you the terms, and then you'll click submit again and make the deposit. You can also deposit less, if your bankroll won't support the full amount to maximize the bonus.

2) They also have a reload bonus running, which you can deposit for immediately after signing up. It's a 100% reload, up to 200€. So make a second deposit for 200€ using bonus code novreload. (Again, ignore that it seems to be a November promotion, as it works fine, and the cashier will always confirm that your bonus code is valid before you deposit. If it doesn't confirm it, then assume it isn't valid anymore.)

This one is a little different. Once you clear 600 VIP points, the 200€ is credited to your account. No waiting, nothing like that. I got mine credited automatically in a little under two hours after clearing the 600 VIPs. For reference sake, I two-tabled for a couple of hours and cleared the 600 VIP points in one afternoon. Not bad at all for a $242 bonus.

What's extra special nice is that the bonuses clear concurrently, so the points you accumulate for the reload also count towards the 3000 VIP point total you need for the signup bonus.

It also should be pointed out that you can withdraw at any time, and you don't have to leave any funds in the account to receive the signup bonus 90 days later, after you've cleared 3000 VIP points. While you don't get the big signup bonus immediately upon clearance, you can withdraw at any time, so there's no risk involved in tying up funds in the account for a long time. They allow you one free withdrawal every 30 days, and charge a nominal fee for withdrawals after that.

The site's apparently well-known in Europe and is completely legitimate, so I wouldn't worry too much about sticking the large deposits needed for the bonuses in there. Remember, too, that you can withdraw the bulk of it anytime you want, and only leave what you need in the account to clear the 3000 VIP points. You'll get one bonus of 200€ immediately when you clear 600 VIPs (which you can do pretty quickly), and then another bonus 30 days later, and the big signup bonus 90 days after creating your account.

So yeah, sort of a weird bonus structure, but pretty damn juicy. I'm up the 200€ from the bonus you get immediately plus a little over 400€, just from playing with the crazies at 5/10 and 3/6 limit tables. It does take awhile to grind the VIPs out, though, so don't expect to bang this one out in an evening.

If you do give this one a whirl, feel free to put "frogalog" in the referral field when you sign up, as that'll give you an extra 25€ bonus, plus I'll get a wee bit of money in my account and you'll reap the rewards of all sorts of good karma and assorted mojo.

Nothing to See Here

Many thanks for all the responses and comments to the hand I posted a few days back. Sometimes its good for me to wotk things out like that, especially concepts that are maths related, as that ain't my strong suit.

I wish I had exciting, meaty, pokery content to relate, but I'm running a little low at the moment. Still working on a few things related to shorthanded play, but it goes slowly, as everything is qualified by like twelve different other considerations. It's also quarterly/annual review time at work, which always sucks up a ridiculous amount of time.

I'm still chugging along at the virtual tables. I'm starting to get a little gun-shy, as I've had way too many consecutive good days, and it's inevitable that some red numbers start creeping back into the spreadsheet I'm using to track my play. I'm not sure if that's the realist or the pessimist in me coming out. Maybe the realimist.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

That Was a Crazy Hand of Poker: Part II

I'm going to revisit my post about wacky 10-way action yesterday, as I'm still not sure I have my brain completely wrapped around the concept I was trying to get at, that I hadn't faced before.

After everyone limps in and the BB raises, I think re-raising with 10c9c is close to a no-brainer. I know it looks odd, but suited connectors thrive in large, multiway pots, and you can't be scared of building those pots yourself pre-flop. 10 players in for 3 bets each is about as large and multiway as you can get, pre-flop. You're going to immediately dump your hand on the flop a large percentage of the time, true, but the pots you build by playing aggressively pre-flop more than make up for it, when you do win. I know, it's bothersome and looks odd, but this is one of those things I consistently saw better players doing pre-flop that I struggled with a long time before coming around to that way of thinking.

(My original limp with 10c9c out of position is bad, though, as too much has to happen after me for that to be correct.)

My turn/river play is really weak. Guilty as charged. I suck.

Stepping back a bit, though, it's hard to conjure up a scenario where I'm ahead the entire hand. What spooked me the most is the likelihood of KQ being out there, with ten players in the hand, and the general tendency for the table to passively limp in pre-flop. KQ (suited or not) has to be in the top 3 of hands that passive players love to limp with, so the odds seemed to be great it was out there, with someone waiting to raise the turn if it was a non-diamond.

The BB is also troublesome, as it's hard to put him on a non-fearsome hand that he'd raise into nine people pre-flop with, but not cap when I re-raise. He likely doesn't have KK or AA, but could very well have AKs, AQs, AJs, QQ, JJ, 1010, 99, or 88. None of those make me too happy, although the first four aren't too troublesome, as many of his outs are likely counterfeited with everyone in.

The fact that everyone just calls my flop bet, in my mind, increases the likelihood that I'm behind, and that someone is waiting to pop it on the turn, especially a turn that doesn't put three to a diamond flush out there.

That said, yeah, I have to bet the turn and see what happens. Boo, me.

Ditto for the river. Cross the raising bridge when I come to it. Boo, me.

But here's my real question, and what I think I was trying to get at. And the fact that I don't know the answer may expose a huge gap in my understanding of poker, but so be it, you only learn by asking questions sometimes.

Let's pretend that on the turn the following is true, as far as the likelihood of each player ultimately winning the hand:

Hero: 20% chance of winning.
Villain #1: 22%
Villain #2: 12%
Villain #3: 8%
Villain #4: 8%
Villain #5: 6%
Villain #6: 6%
Villain #7: 6%
Villain #8: 6%
Villain #9: 6%

There's $200 in the pot at that point. It's checked to me. I'm a slight underdog to win the hand. If I bet $10, everyone will have the correct odds to call the $10 bet. Betting will not increase my odds of winning the pot, as everyone will call and the percentages will remain unchanged.

That said, I'm a significant favorite over all but one player, contesting a big pot. In this scenario (a favorite over the vast majority of the field but still behind, and unable to improve my chances of winning by forcing players with insufficient odds to make a bad call), do I want:

A) As much money to go into the pot as possible
B) As little money to go into the pot as possible

That's my real question.

It's an odd case as it's a bit different from situations where you aggressively play what's likely a second-best hand in a big pot, in an attempt to drive out other players and improve your odds of winning. While it's still a second best hand, the increased odds of winning if successful in driving other players out is worth playing the second-best hand fast and raising.

Okay, so I broke down and got all the calculator and scratch paper and yeah, I'm a doofus. The obvious correct answer is A. You win way more than enough to make up for the fact that you're a slight dog, so the bigger the pot the better. It's actually good for you in that situation that people have correct odds to call, as it simply builds a bigger pot that you win 20% of the time.

If I'm 10% to win, I'm close to break even as far as ultimate net profit, assuming I bet the turn, get raised, and call along with a decent number of folks, and then call a river bet as well, along with a decent number of folks. And with KQ out there and a reasonable selection of other hands (flush draws and some low pocket pairs, straight draws, etc.) I'm 10.71% to win on the turn. So in the actual hand I don't even necessarily hate a raise from a slow-played KQ, as I'm not setting money on fire by betting/calling. I don't gain EV by raising and getting more money in, but neither do I hate money going in.

In the real world, though, betting out on the turn/river would have cleared out some people, likely even hands that had sufficient odds to draw to their two outers, thus improving my odds of winning, so a bet is definitely in order.

Resisting the urge to delete this, as I likely should have already known the answer to the above question, but hey, like GI Joe said, knowing is half the poker battle. Which I guess leaves occasionally looking stupid at about 25%, getting lucky at about 12.5%, and sheer stubborn determinedness clocking in at 12.5% as well.

Monday, January 09, 2006

That Was a Crazy Hand of Poker

(Edited a little later to correct my early mistake with suit of one of the cards.)

I played a hand last night that I've never encountered before, and still have no idea how I should have played it.

It's $5/10 limit HE, with ten players at the table. The table has two really bad players who limp every hand and is generally really passive, with hardly any pre-flop raising from the majority of people.

I'm dealt 10c9c in UTG+1. UTG limps. I go ahead and limp, too, (fairly marginal decision) assuming the two bad players will limp as well, plus the blinds, so I can see a flop cheaply. It should be noted that the two bad players were so bad that I was willing to take a flyer with a marginal hand here out of position.

The next player limps. And the next. And so on. Every single player at the table limps in for $5, up to the BB, who raises. UTG calls.

I raise (slightly marginal decision), assuming I'll either flop a monster or be done, so I might as well jam more chips in.

Every single player after me calls two more cold, and the BB calls. Suddenly there's $150 in the pot before the flop, with all ten players in.

The flop is Jd 10s 9d. SB checks, BB checks, UTG checks, and the action is to me.

Good news: I flopped two pair.
Bad news: I flopped two pair.

I have no idea what to do now. Even if I'm currently ahead (and that's a huge, doubtful if) there have to be 182,172 draws out there. I could very easily have a worse two pair to J10, etc. Odds are great that I'll have to improve to a boat to win, and even that's remote, as some of my 10s are probably dead. It's not that unlikely that I'm completely drawing dead, no matter what I do, if someone has JJ or 1010. Aside from that, the pot is so huge due to preflop silliness that everyone had odds to draw to everything.

At the same time, that's a $150 pot, so I figure I might as well give it a whirl and bet, hoping someone else raises, so I can re-raise and try to knock some people out. If it gets three-bet/capped before it gets back to me, I can fold. Maybe.

(Question: Is that logic flawed? Should I just check and try to cheaply keep drawing to what's likely a 1-2 outer to me, folding if there's much action behind me?)

I bet. Every single freaking person calls behind me. $200 in the pot.

Turn is 4s, putting Jd 10s 9d 4s on the board.

It's checked back to me. Again, I'm completely flummoxed. I'd like to say that the 4 was a brick and helped me, but I have no clue, what with 10 monkeys in the hand still. Pretty much any card in the deck has to help someone. Everyone is getting 20-1 odds if I bet, so I have to assume a bet won't drive anyone out. I also think I have to assume that someone is getting cute and trappy and slowplaying KQ and waiting to raise it up on the turn/river, since I've been representing a big hand with my limp/re-raise preflop.

But damnit, that pot is big. Gargh.

I wuss out and meekly check. I'm willing to call one more bet and try to river a boat, but I'm also ready to ditch it if there's much more action.

After I check, every single freaking person checks. Everyone. At this point, I have no clue what this means.

River is 5h, putting Jd 10s 9d 4s 5h on the board. It's checked to me.

Gargh. I have no clue where I'm at. I still can't see any way I'm winning enough times to value bet now, especially with so many people left to act. In retrospect, I guess I should bet and reasonably safely fold to a raise. I didn't trust myself to be able to do that, though, so I wussed out and checked, willing to call one bet back to me.

Every single freaking person checks. My hand is good (?) and I take down the pot (?).

So, umm, yeah. What the hell?

Is this a case where you play the flop/turn really fast (betting out and hoping to be able to re-raise/cap) based on the pot size, trying to drive people out? Or is there a tipping point where you simply say Jebus, there are too many monkeys and too many draws in this hand, I'll just turtle up and try to somehow see the river cheaply?

On the Value of Taking Shots

And of course the correct answer to the pseudo-question at the end of my last point is no, don't sit at 50/100, and don't make any more -EV sports wagers. Take the money and stash it away, and keep grinding away in my comfort zone. Then grind away some more. And some more.

I think taking shots is a good idea. Necessary, even. But I think it also gets misidentified sometimes, though, or is trotted out as an excuse for impatience or general malaise.

On the surface, taking a shot is pretty simple. You intentionally play at higher stakes than you normally do, with a sum of money that is statistically not sufficient to absorb the natural swings of variance. Depending on your risk tolerance, you might have a 50% risk of ruin. Which simply means you'll go broke half the time. Your risk of ruin could be 10%, it could be 75%. You know this going in, and accept it, and are prepared to soldier on if the money you risk simply disappears into the ether.

Why would you take a shot, then, if it involves that element of risk? Why not continue to grind away? Well, now we're getting somewhere.

The easiest and most correct answer is simple. If you're a winning 2/4 player, and have played a kajillion hands at that level, you have what it takes to be a winning 20/40 player. Really. If you're a winning player at higher limits, you win more money. What you likely lack, though, is the bankroll and the experience to consistently win at 20/40.

We can mystify poker and construct a cosmos where we toil and slowly work our way up, level by level, learning what we need at each stop to continue the climb upwards, but that doesn't really hold water, to a large extent. Yes, over time you'll encounter a huge range of experiences that will cumulatively result in you playing better and better poker, but it's not quite as graduated as we make it out to be sometimes.

Or, more simply, people suck just as much, on average, at 20/40 as they do at 2/4.

So if taking a shot can speed your ascent to the next level, take a shot every now and then. Especially if you're close to being adequately bankrolled but not quite there yet. Understand the risk and set a simple goal of generating enough funds so you can comfortable play at the next highest level. Even if you bust out you'll have valuable experience at the next level, for when you do get there.

But you have to also be ready to reap what you sow, even if you're successful. Especially if you're successful. Which is the flip side of taking a shot that isn't often discussed.

Let's say I took my degenerate sportsbook winnings and sat at 50/100 with a piddling $2,500, my heart in my throat. I'm willing to lose it all but want to take a shot at bigger limits. I get down to my last $200 then go on a tear and finish the session at $15,000. Woo hoo. I am the genius of teh poker.

Okay, but then what? I'm still not adequately bankrolled for 50/100. I do have $15,000 more than I started the day with, which is nice, but I have exactly one session of experience at 50/100, and the idea of playing at those stakes still makes me throw up in my mouth a little. I can either continue to take shots at 50/100 or retreat to limits I'm comfortably at, just with more money in my pocket.

Even if I was adequately bankrolled for 50/100, I wouldn't be ready psychologically, as it's too large a leap in limits for me to be comfortable playing at. I wouldn't be able to play my best game, stressing out over the sums of money involved.

In that example, the utility function of my taking a shot is really poor. I don't get much bang for my buck. I take on a lot of risk, sitting with just 25 BBs to gamble with, but I don't get much upside, even when successful.

You might ask the very valid question, then, as to what the hell then was I doing betting $400 yesterday on a +600 dog in a college basketball game?

In that instance, I saw a reasonable amount of utility in taking that shot, in light of the larger picture of my plans to quit the day job soon, and my desire to build up some financial padding for that move. $400 in and of itself wouldn't make a huge difference in that respect, but $2,400 would, from both a financial and psychological standpoint. If it hits, boom, sock it into savings. If it misses, I'm out $400. That's the goal, not to continue to make silly bets to run it up to $10,000, not to then sit at 50/100. Get good value for a shot, take it, and be ready to move on, successful or not.

(And yeah, I'm slightly justifying my slightly embarassing luckbox bet in retrospect, but hell, this is my blog, damnit, and I can do whatever I want.)

I do think there's a nuggest of wisdom, though, in all of this babbling. In the long run, taking occasional shots is +EV. Just have a goal in mind, and don't just consider your ability to move on if the shot is unsuccessful, but also have a plan for what's next if the shot is successful. Make sure you're getting good value for the shot and not just putting money at risk unnecessarily.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Holy Freaking Crizzap

I should never make a sports bet again after this week.

West Virginia vs Villanova +600
Stake: $400.00
Result: +$2,400.00

As way of slight explanation, I'd nearly forgotten about the $100 futures bet I had on Texas to win the national championship with a sportsbook I signed up with months ago. If you deposited a certain amount in addition to the signup bonus you also got a free $100 futures bet on the NCAA football champ. I did what any reasonable person would do, and put it on Texas.

That futures bet paid off a little over $800, so I basically had a $800 freeroll in my account. You know, not really, as I can just withdraw it, but sort of a psychological freeroll, as I wasn't counting on or accounting for the money at all. I told myself I'd be good and withdraw half of it and leave the other half for silly sportbets. The crazy thing is that while I've been doing tons of arbitrage betting with sportsbooks, I hardly every actually wager on sports in the traditional sense, and when I do it's usually $20 here and there, blow some money on horses during the Triple Crown races, and things like that.

But I was looking for lines to arb this morning and kept thinking Jebus, that WV/Nova line looks crazy, as WV was +600, and I've actually seen them play twice this year, and they were pretty consistently tough, and picked by many as a possible Final 4 team, yada yada yada. Just seemed like a lot of value on the WV side of it, if you're looking for a longshot and have some money to fling around.

So I put $100 on it originally. And kept watching it, and thinking, hmm, if I'm going to go nuts, I might as well really go nuts. So I put another $100 on it. And then I'm finally like hell, let's just get all this stupid betting out of the way, and I can lose my $400 in mad money and go back to being Grindy McGee.

So I put the entire $400 on WV. They were down 9 at half and I was feeling like a schmuck but they managed to pull it out in the end, even with Nova knocking down al sorts of 3s.


And now I should be a good monkey and withdraw it all and bank it. And not, you know, go sit with it at 50/100 or something like that. Nope. Definitely not.

Um, Yeah, See, I'd Stay and Play, But I Have to Go to Church

This playing lots of poker thing is kind of cool. It helps to run well but there's a certain comfort in larger sample sizes. I hadn't really been playing all that much in recent months to get a real dipstick measure of where I was at, and smallish sample sizes at 15/30 and 20/40 can be a bitch sometimes, as far as variance goes.

The main site I'm propping at is pretty low-traffic, so I end up playing whatever is available from 5/10 up, but lots of times I'll end up playing heads-up at 5/10. I won't go so far as to say I necessarily enjoy heads-up at the moment, but I'm getting there. The most interesting part is experimenting with different playing styles, as far as adjusting to whatever the opponent is bringing.

This morning I was sitting alone at a $5/10 table when one of the site regulars sat down, who plays mid limits but is pretty bad. He plays decently well but he's absolutely and utterly predictable and he can't lay down top pair, especially an overpair. Heads-up, he only raises from the SB with fairly strong hands, any ace, any pair, any two cards 10 or higher. He also tilts really, really easily.

We sort of joust around for 15 minutes or so with no real fireworks and then I get up a bit when I hit a few hands. When I'm in the BB I'm calling his preflop raises with pretty much anything except the junkiest of hands. The only wrinkle is that I'm not ever re-raising from my BB preflop, not even with AA. I won't necessarily recommend that, for obvious reasons, but it tends to annoy the hell out of some people, and isn't the worst strategy if you're playing a predictable player.

I take down a few more big pots when I call him down with middle pair and he starts getting pissed. Flopping two pair with 67o to crack his AA doesn't improve his mindset. Flopping the nut flush with AKh when I simply call his pre-flop raise and then getting him to put in 172,182 more bets when he won't accept that his set of Qs is beaten is the final straw.

Villain: amateur hour
Villain: complete amateur hour
Villain: you keep slowplaying like that
Hero: I thought I raised 172 times that hand
Villain: before the flop
Hero: Oh. I put you on aces so I just called. Sorry.

(One thing to note is that I actually have to be polite and courteous to players, as part of the prop agreement. Aside from that, it's a good idea in general since many of the sample people show up all the time, and a goodly number simply aren't very good players, but seem to have disposable income.)

We tread water some more, then I hit a few more hands and bluff raise him on the turn with nothing to take down a few more pots. I then pull out the luckbox mojo and runner runner a straight with what had been an A high I was going to showdown to crack his set of 10s.

Villain: did you just start playing?
Villain: because you're the worst player I've seen on this site
Hero: My church held a poker fundraiser for charity last week, and that's when I learned to play.
Villain: lmfao
Hero: Pardon?
Villain: just play
Villain: lucky ******
Hero: Pardon?
Villain: play

I continue to bash his head in. To be fair, I was catching all sorts of cards, and he was more than a little tilty at that point. This goes both ways heads-up, and I've been in his shoes, so I'm really not boasting or claiming to be a guru of heads-up play. We've probably played 45 minutes or so and I'm up about $300. I'm more than happy to cut and run but I try to give at least a little advance warning.

Hero: Just so you know, I have to leave in 15 minutes to attend church.
Villain: so?
Hero: My pastor said it was good etiquete to let your poker playing friends know when you had to leave the game, especially if you're winning.
Villain: lol
Villain: im not your friend
Villain: and your not going to keep that money long
Villain: worst player on this site
Villain: check back with me in 3 months and let me know how much money you have left
Hero: Well, I plan to tithe 20% of my winnings to the church, so keep that in mind.
Villain: omg

He gets a bit of it back over the next 15 minutes or so, at which point I sit out.

Hero: Thank you for the advice and for playing.
Villain: **** off churchie
Hero: I'll pray for you and tithe $52 to the church today.
Villain: **** you
Villain: suck my ****
Hero: Have a wonderful day.

And then I logged off and, you know, looked at porn for the next twenty minutes.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Keep on Keeping On

Can't complain much, although, of course, I sort of will, as far as booking another day of 6+ hours of the poker. I'm getting into the groove of it a bit more, as far as grinding out hands, which is good.

Still wrestling with that dumb notion I've struggled with in the past, as far as being tempted to simply quit for the day after going on a big rush. By 10 this morning I was up a little over $1,000 on the day, but I'd only put in a couple of hours. Logic dictates that I should continue to play, which I did, and ending up bleeding back $600 or so of ill-gotten gains.

Which sucks, obviously, but also not the worst thing in the world, obviously. I guess I'm glad I powered through and kept playing, despite the results. I'm spending too much time crunching numbers in my head, as far as what I need to make each day to account for what I'd otherwise be making at a real job. I've got enough of a cushion, though, that all that really matters is what I've made six months from now, or a year from now, etc., which is a much better way of approaching it, methinks.

It's also interesting as far as the weird shit you see, by simply getting in a whole ton of hands in a day. I lost to quads four different times today, flopped quads myself twice, and hit my first royal flush in about six months.

Online poker is so freaking rigged.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Poker Poker Poker

Things are still rolling well on the poker front. I'm working on some strategy stuff as far as shorthanded play goes, but it's proving kind of hard. First, I'm still not the best shorthanded player in the world, but the real problem is that it's hard to put down general guidelines in stone, since so many things are situational and depend on your opponent. Plays that are brilliant when facing one opponent heads-up are absolutely donkeyfied when facing a different opponent, with exactly the same cards in play.

Pretty encouraged, though, in general as far as poker goes. Large part of it is due to simply running well, so there is that, but shorthanded is feeling more consistently exploitable to me, even more than ring games, so it's easier to imagine actually making a living from it while keeping variance to a minimum. I realize that looks illogical on the surface (and it may be in practice, too) but I'm starting to wonder if profitable shorthanded players actually encounter less variance in general, due to simply being able to see more hands and make more correct decisions.

I may start working some SnGs into the mix, too, likely on Stars. The two sites I'm primarily playing at don't always have games going at the limits I play, especially early in the day, so I may start adding some SnGs into the mix at those times.

Wow, Part II

I'm still in a slight state of shock that we actually won that game last night. I mean, no, wait, go Horns, I knew you had it the whole damn time.

I honestly don't think I've ever watched a sporting event that intensely, as far as being invested in every single play. It didn't hurt that a Texas win would net me +$825 from a futures bet I made on them to win the national championship before the season started, either.

Vince, you are the man. I mean, we all knew that, you knew that, but still. Thank you for proving the idiocy of the Heisman voting, once again. I hope you have a long, fruitful career with the Houston Texans and rescue them from continued sucking.

David Thomas, you are also the man. That 4 yard catch to convert on third down where you slipped, nearly went down, then completely laid out to snare a bullet from VY was a thing of beauty. Not to mention bulling your way to another couple of first downs, and in general settling everyone down in the first quarter when we were slightly freaking out.

Mack Brown, you're the man for not going bonkers and calmly kicking one-point conversions after TDs and not going for two, after we missed that early PAT. That extra three or four points in the bank looked pretty nice on the scoreboard in the end.

Pete Carroll, you're sort of the man. Very gracious, indeed, and going for it on 4th down at the end took balls, but burning all your timeouts in the second half was horrible, especially when you used you last one on defense facing the 2 point conversion attempt. Terrible. VY was just going to jam it in anyway, and even if you just give them 2 you're still only down by 3, with a timeout to possibly stop the clock and go for a field goal. Why you stayed in zone defense for 95% of the game, I do not know. If you're going to get run over anyway (and you were) at least send some people flying at VY.

LenDale White, you're the man. Call me crazy, but I think you'll have a better NFL career than Dave Meggett, err, Reggie Bush.

Reggie, you're still the man, but I think this game was a good preview of what the NFL will be like. Thanks for the lateral, too, when you were just about to stick a dagger in our heart.

Dwayne Jarrett, you're the man. You kept killing us, consistently, the whole damn game, with big catch after big catch.

Officiating crew, you are most definitely not the men. I don't even mind that you missed the VY knee being down call, as that was a bang-bang play (but yeah, he was definitely down), but I've never seen such an indecisive crew, in such a big game. So many plays you were just awkwardly standing there afterwards, looking around for help, afraid to call it one way or the other. Both of those spots were horrible on USC's 4th down attempts, especially the last one, when you overruled the spot of the one official who had a clear view of the play, handing USC an extra half yard. The USC offensive line obviously deserves mad props, but it also helps when you can't find a single holding call, the entire game, despite Texas sending the defensive house at them many, many times.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Holy fucking shit.

Hook 'em horns.

Rose Bowl: Horns, Baby

I'll keep this short and sweet, as Jebus knows the media has wasted a kajillion keystrokes hyping this game.

Horns win.

No hometown bias, just simple facts. USC doesn't play defense, nor have they faced a tough defense themselves. They struggled to beat Fresno State and ASU and needed two near-miracles to beat Notre Dame. They largely faced pass-happy teams that couldn't sustain long, churning drives to keep the USC offense off the field.

Horns win.

An Open Letter to the Poker Sites of the World

Now that I've covered 2005 ad nauseum, it's time to be a little more proactive and look towards the shiny, glittering future, with all its possibilities.

The Software

Here's the thing. At heart, poker players aren't hard to please. We'll put up with a lot of annoying shit, just so that we can get our poker fix in. This should be pretty apparent based on the fact that so many of you have buggy, poorly-designed software that's been jacked up literally for YEARS with no improvements.

So I'm not even going to go down that road. Fine, ignore us when we complain about your client stealing focus for no apparent reason. Continue to use clunky software that makes it difficult to get on waiting lists for multiple tables, because, Jebus forbid, we actually be able to quickly sit down and start paying you rake. Go ahead and implement a chat system that would drive even Koko crazy.

Whatthefuckever. You know what's broke yet you still won't fix it. You're right, we'll still play, so I won't even tilt at the GUI/client windmill.

Mixed Games and Poker Variants in General

I will, though, tilt at the windmill next to it. Ignore mixed games at your own peril. People are getting fed up with only HE, all the time, and I think that trend is only going to continue. This is a natural evolution when players hit a certain stage of their poker career, and not a fad or a one-time thing. More and more players enjoy and want to play mixed games and variants. This population of players will only increase over time.

There's absolutely no reason major sites shouldn't offer every poker variant out there, mixed games, dealer's choice, everything. Yes, I recognize the peril and danger in making changes to your client on the fly, in a live environment. In the end, though, it would be well worth it. And don't base the decision just because you monitor the traffic on the Badugi tables at Doyle's or Triple Draw at UB or the dealer's choice games at GamesGrid or Razz at FullTilt. If you build it (and promote it), the players will come. Hell, if you build it and offer it, the players will do the promoting for you.


While near-instant cashouts are nice, no one gets too upset if it takes a day or two. That's cool. But if you're going to accept my money instantly, with no further identification, then don't delay my cashout by requiring me to send you a scan of my driver's license, etc., or otherwise hold up my cashout for "internal review". The money was good enough for you to instantly take it from me, so it shouldn't require any additional scrutiny on the way out.

Yes, I understand issues with Neteller fees and transferring funds quickly in and out. I'm not talking about that. Not many sites delay withdrawls purposefully, but the few that do hold up cashouts for inexplicable reasons need to cut that shit out.

Rewards and Customer Retention

If you listen to one thing I say, listen to this next one. At the moment, none of you, not a single solitary site, is doing even a passable job as far as customer retention and loyalty programs go. You're all ignoring what motivates and retains players and are effectively setting money on fire, each and every day. The bulk of your customer loyalty efforts are offering bonuses for playing a certain number of hands, with a few hats and beanies that no one wants thrown in, here and there. That's pitiful. Really, really pitiful.

You have all of the data you need to offer an effective, attractive, PERSONALIZED loyalty program. Did you notice the emphasis there? The PERSONALIZED part?

Because here's the deal. Not everyone is motivated by the same things, even us greedy degenerate types. And here's the dirty secret. The fact that not everyone is motivated by the same incentives IS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE, and something you could capitalize on if you'd get your heads out of your asses.

If someone typically multi-tables 6 15/30 tables and is averaging 2BB/100 in profits, guess what, they're a damn good player that understands the score, as far as rake, rakeback, and all that jazz. Treat them accordingly. Proactively offer them either direct rakeback or equivalent rewards, such as trips to Vegas, high-end electronics, etc. Proactively engage them and treat them like a professional, whose business you appreciate and want to retain. Because they are. And you have the data to see that, without even having to ask.

(And understand that engaging customers doesn't always mean calling them on the phone. Many people vastly prefer email contact. If you insist on calling them on the phone, hire customer service agents that can clearly speak the native language of the recipient of the call.)

Let's say instead you have a rich guy who plays 30/60 and is absolutely terrible, blows tons and tons of money every month, but plays because he's loaded and enjoys to play. Offer him an all expenses paid weekend vacation to anywhere he wants to go in the world, or Superbowl tickets, or a choice of similar rewards. Don't offer him rakeback. He's not motivated by rakeback. You have all of the data to see this, without ever contacting him.

If you have a sportsbook client who lives in Austin and bets huge sums on the Longhorns every weekend, losing $20,000 over the course of the season, you're missing a huge opportunity if you don't offer them a couple of free Rose Bowl tickets, completely out of the blue.

If you offered people the chance to play 10,000 hands at $1/2 or above to get a free iPod Nano, would they do it? What if you'd already contacted them and knew they liked electronics and gizmos? If so, would they play 15,000 hands for the same Nano?

Single white males age 18-25 are motivated by completely different rewards than black women age 50-60. Residents of the state of Wisconsin are motivated by completely different rewards than a resident of Kazakhstan. Men are motivated by different things than women. Some people will accept (and welcome) tangible goods over cash rewards, even if the cash reward was actually greater, if they purchased the goods themselves. This isn't rocket science.

And don't even try to claim it would be a logistical nightmare. Because it wouldn't be. I'm only talking about implementing a personalized retention and rewards program that targets your highest value clients. Because you know exactly who they are and what they're worth. Let the casual players do their casual thing, without lifting a finger or exerting any energy or expense on them. If they step up their play and become more valuable, step up your own retention efforts. If they leave the site and cease playing at all, step up your retention efforts.

If you can't implement and manage a program like this yourself, then hire someone that can. Someone who understands and plays poker and knows what motivates people, and can mine lots of useful information from individual player activity on the site.

The best absolutele best advertising you can get is word of mouth, from people on blogs, conversations at home games, etc. What do you think might prompt people to gush positively over your site, that you offered them a $50 reload for playing 400 raked hands or that you sent them, completely out of the blue, a $50 retail gift basket at Christmas (which you likely only actually paid $20 for)?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

2005 Review: The Poker Blogs

(Starting something with numerous caveats isn't exactly the strongest of writing practices, but here we are. I am but one single solitary monkey, who knows none of you bloggers very well at all, who very often is wrong, and has the capacity to insert my head in my ass very frequently. So keep that in mind. The real intent of this is to thank people for all of the hard work they poured into blogs in the last year. While I could simply stick to that and everyone would be happy, I think that's cheating. One of my goals in 2006 is to be more honest, especially in situations when it can actually do someone more good than simply sitting there and keeping my mouth shut.)

2005 was an interesting year for poker blogs, and the bloggers behind them. I think you'd have to conclude it was a pretty damn successful year, with bloggers landing real live paying gigs, traveling the world to cover major tournaments, playing and cashing in WSOP events, and dropping many, many hammers on unsuspecting fools. Two WPBT events were held in Vegas, both drawing more degenerate folks than the previous one. Lots of blogger tournaments were organized and held, including satellites that sent bloggers to WSOP events. Many friendships and connections were made that would otherwise never have existed. Perhaps more amazingly, everyone continued to get along really well. Which is no small feat, especially when bringing together a fairly motley crew of degenerate types who like to gamble.

It's hard to quantify, but I think that the phenomenon of poker blogs in general gained more respect in 2005, becoming a bit more legitimate. Or, you know, less gay. Poker sites began to take notice of the blogging phenomenon, including hiring bloggers, sponsoring blogs, offering freerolls and other promotions, and in general being more proactive about seeking out advertising relationships with bloggers. The scale seemed to tip slightly away from the general notion that blogs about poker are largely an exercise in vanity by amateur players and swing towards the inkling of recognition that Hey, some of these bloggers not only play poker well but they can also write.

I honestly have no clue if we saw growth in the overall number of poker blogs. My guess would be yes, but that it tapered off towards the last half of the year. I could be completely wrong here, as I'm just going on my general impression of how many blogs I added during the year, when I became aware of them and added them, etc. Needless to say, I've got nearly 300 poker blogs in Bloglines these days, and find it hard to imagine that there were more than that when 2005 began.

So that's all the good stuff. Which brings us to, well, the not good stuff. I won't say "bad", because it isn't, but I think there are a few areas in which 2005 could have been a better year for poker bloggers.

I don't know a subtle way of saying this, but we really need to work on getting our shit organized. As the blogging phenomenon in general becomes more legitimized, so too do the opportunities offered to bloggers, especially bloggers in industries that have very high profit margins/customer or sale. Like, you know, online poker.

Simply put, we're well-positioned to use our collective audience and reach to secure advertising deals and/or sponsorships by online poker sites. Add up all the unique visitors of all the poker blogs and take that number to the ten largest poker sites, and see what the highest bid is for, to buy up all the ad placement on all the blogs for a month. It would be a very, very large number.

But we continue to ignore that possibility, all doing our own little thing, with some people putting up affiliate banners and links, some choosing not to, and in general ignoring the possibility that we could actually make money from all these blogs, collectively. We fall all over ourselves thanking PokerStars when they offer a freeroll for bloggers, yet we provide them with advertising that would, if purchased in an organized market, cost them far more than what they spent on prizes.

I don't mean to sound ungrateful, as I'm not. I'm just saying that we need to stop viewing ourselves as marginalized citizens of the poker world, happy to get a few scraps tossed to us here and there. That's bullshit. And the sad truth is that unless we step up and demand it, collectively, we're only going to get more table scraps in the future. And table scraps are better than no table scraps, don't get me wrong, but there's no reason to accept that, not now, when we could be sitting at the table ourselves.

On a slightly related note, I don't think that 2005 was a good year for poker blogs as far as spreading and disseminating knowledge. We get high, high marks for half of the blog equation, which is connecting and building beneficial, rewarding social structures. The highest marks possibility. But we get pretty damn low marks as far as actually helping people play better poker.

I'll be the first to admit, though, that for many people the social aspect is always going to be more valuable than increasing your BB/100. And, honestly, even I can admit that it probably should be the case. Money is just money and there are many, many things you can't put a price tag on. I get that.

That said, there's no reason you can't have both. People far too often fall back on the crutch of "I'd post some strategy stuff but other people do such a better job and I really don't know what I'm doing anyway, blah blah blah." And to that I have to cry bullshit.

Everyone has something valuable to share, that could help other people play better poker. Even posting the most jacked-up, wrong-headed strategy in the world has value, especially if it generates discussion. That's the whole point of this blog thing, as far as getting things out there, even if it's rough, even if you decide 3 months later that damn, I was really clueless when I wrote that. You learn more by being wrong than being right, and there's no shame in being "exposed" as having chinks in your armor and not, in fact, being the world's most perfect, infallible poker player.

I look back on some things I've posted here and just absolutely cringe. That's the point. That's the reason we all have these damn poker blogs anyway. The whole idea that any one thing can always be perfectly right, as far as poker goes, is wrong-headed to begin with, as so many situations are fluid and change depending on the circumstances. So don't just sit on the sidelines, waiting for the handful of people that post strategy stuff these days to actually post strategy stuff.

With all that babbling out of the way, now it's time to really stir up trouble.

Best Poker Blogs of 2005

1) Tao of Poker: Usually you have to choose between volume or quality, but not so with Pauly, as you get both. It definitely helps to be able to do the blog thing full time and get paid for it, but that's sort of a chicken-egg argument, as only a top-notch blogger would get the chance to do that, anyway. Pauly gets big props for mixing in all sorts of other themes and content, including personal stuff that many of us shy monkeys steer well clear of.

2) Poker Grub: Grubby gets the nod here for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is living the Vegas life and honestly reporting the results, even when they aren't fun to report. He's also a damn good writer, includes poker strategy from time to time, and is willing to let people into his life.

3) Guinness and Poker: Yeah, yeah, huge surprise, but you have to give the wee man his props. Even if you bitch and moan and claim that 90% of the content is aggregated these days, at least he's willing to do that, which can itself be a shit-ton of work. Throw in all of the organizational work Iggy did, both in the virtual and real worlds, and this is a no-brainer.

Most Disappointing Poker Blogs of 2005

1) Guinness and Poker: Bet you didn't see that coming. With greatness comes great responsibility and expectations, and I can't help but feeling disappointed in general with the fact that Iggy keeps offering so few windows into the poker strategy side of things. Yeah, I know, it's -EV to take the time to teach people to play better poker but come on matey, toss a few more bones our way.

2) The Cards Speak: Again, I'm risking angering the poker blogger gods, but this is for the same reasons above. 'Tis a very good blog, indeed, but I kept finding myself wishing that Henry had more time to post more, as in the past, and was frustrated with a good number of the infrequent posts that appeared, as they mainly seemed recaps of previous stuff that was posted for the sake of checking in. Yes, I know, I'm a greedy asshole, always demanding more and more, ignoring real-world issues like job demands and what-not.

3) The Poker Chronicles: Broken record, as it's the same refrain as above, but I wish Matt would post more strategy as in the past.

Most Dedicated Poker Blogs of 2005

1) Nickelanddimes: Drizz keeps bringing it each and every day, mixing in poker content, life content, and all sorts of other good stuff. And all this despite holding a day job, like so many of us monkeys. Just don't rely on his teaser or parlay picks.

2) FeliciaLee: Despite many reasons not to, Felicia continues to contribute all sorts of poker content, strategy, and general commentary. Like Pauly, it helps to not have to punch a timeclock every day, but she's been doing it for years, for absolutely no reason other than to educate other people about poker in general.

3) Tao of Poker and Poker Prof's Poker Blog: These sort of sleep in the same bed, so I'm including them as a pair. Hard to beat either the frequency of posts or the depth of content, including coverage of actual real live poker events, sometimes under non-optimal conditions.

Best New Poker Blogs of 2005

1) The Obituarium: Metrosexual tendencies aside (and the technical fact that he posted for a few months in late 2004), Speaker gets much credit for regularly posting lots of juicy poker content, as well as other engaging insights into life in general. Plus he has good taste in literature.

2) Poker with WillWonka: Gets the nod here for lots of poker content, lots of stats, strategy, and the willingness to question and share all sorts of results, both good and bad.

3) threebet33: This one is slightly cheating, I think, as I seem to remember this was a pre-existing blog that stretched back pre-2005, but I'm including it anyway. Regular, well-written insights into a mid/high-stakes world in Vegas that many of us simply dream of.

Most Thoughtful, Literate Poker Blogs of 2005

1) Poker Perspectives - Maudie's Poker Blog: Maudie's not only a damn good writer but she tackles the juncture between life and poker in a way many of us shy away from. Plus she can apparently take a steel chair shot to the head without blinking.

2) BG: Again, a damn good writer who isn't scared to let people into his life. Also likely wins the award for most literate blogger who can also find his way around a wine list.

3) Up for Poker: Nearly every post is well-written, with the trio touching on all sorts of issues large and small, poker and non-poker related.

Most Entertaining Poker Blogs of 2005

1) SirWaffle: Just when you think he's settled down and the insanity is over, it begins again.

2) Bobby Bracelet: Despite his single-minded quest to type the word "junk" more times than any other human in the history of human people, Bobby Bracelet still manages to entertain, mixing in trusty standards such as nut cancer as well as showing the fearless ability to also mock the handicapped and disabled.

3) DeadMoneyInc: Ambien hallucinations and repo man tales are a powerfully entertaining combination, indeed. Just post more in the future and stop making me jealous about you just won $172,178 in ten minutes playing on Titan.

Best Poker Strategy Blogs of 2005

1) DoubleAs: He disappeared a bit from time to time, especially as far as strategy posts, but he's definitely still at the head of the class, as far as successful players that take the time for -EV pursuits such as posting and responding to questions about poker strategy.

2) The Cards Speak: Even if the volume was down and the content slightly recycled, Henry still posts some of the best poker strategy out there.

3) Donkey hunter: Likely a surprising choice, but one of the few bloggers willing to devote the time to discussing strategy in light of actual hands, using real-world situations to illustrate both his thought process in various situations and strategic concepts as a whole.