Thursday, December 04, 2008

Egos, Entitlement, and Poker

Playing a ton of LHE of late has been interesting on various fronts, as it's the first time I've strayed from NL in years, despite getting started back in the day at the LHE tables like so many people. I've been spending a lot of time watching CardRunner LHE videos, as there not only was a lot of rust to knock off my LHE game but I'm coming to realize that I was in general playing pretty far from optimal to begin with, as far as blind defense, undervaluing combo/backdoor draws, etc.

As mentioned yesterday, the LHE games at Cake can be surprisingly good at times, especially on weekend nights. There are some catastrophically bad players who, week after week, scrape together the money to buy into a 3/6 LHE game for $60 and proceed to call 3 bets cold with 35o, because, you know, if they get lucky they'll win a big pot, and then call any number of bets to the river on a flop of A A 3, because they caught a piece of it and someone might always be bluffing.

So it's not a struggle to find juicy tables, with a little game selection. But what I am struggling with, more than I'd have thought, is tilt control, when faced with the inevitable times in LHE when players like the above get hot and take you to the cleaners, over and over and over. That's an adjustment from NL that's a bit surprising for me, as I've gotten to the point where I'm relatively tilt-free in NL games. Yeah, the mouse may take some abuse when I finally get the resident table luckbox all-in with set over set (in a good way) and he spiked his one outer for quads on the river, but it takes a good bit to get my off my game when playing NL.

Not so much with LHE, at least at the moment, and it's dragging down my overall results. I've even found myself going off on people in chat, which I haven't done in years, and is terrible all the way around, especially when it's a live one that bleeds chips on a regular basis. I'm not sure why the lemur in the above hand catching a 2 on the turn and a 4 on the river for a straight to take down my AK is so much more galling and monkey-tilt inducing to me, but it is.

Which is all the more damaging in LHE, as it's too easy to get tilty and start donking off a big bet here, two more over there, calling down with A high hands too much against the wrong opponents, yada yada yada.

It's part of the bigger entitlement issue, too, and what you expect from the game, what your capabilities are, and how you carry yourself. I'm still toying with the idea of quitting the day job and relying on my various small streams of income to tide me over until I can build them up into larger streams of income, being able to dedicate myself to it full-time. Poker could be a key part of that if I can consistently pull out a decent chunk of money from the games, thus some of the rationale behind my putting more time in at the tables of late.

While 2008 has been solidly in the black, poker-wise, I haven't quite gotten over the hump where I feel like I'm consistently beating the game. I still have the occasional black hole downswong where I undo a week of steady, consistent work in the span of half a day of tilty play, triggered by the above. Much of it is simple monkey tilt but some of it is also petty frustration, as I've been playing this stupid damn game for a long time now, and still not where I want to be, despite a lot of time and effort and cogitation.

It's a bit of the chicken/egg conundrum, but the biggest thing I want to work on next year poker-wise is the emotional side of things, losing the pettiness and misguided sense of entitlement. One thing I've noticed on the live events I've been on with PokerRoom/bwin is that, without fail, the biggest, most consistent winners of the players on the trips are almost always the ones you'd never expect. There's actually a pretty clear relationship between the players who talk about beating the games the most (usually actually not at all, when you look at their stats) and those who never even bring up their results at all, unless you pry it out of them.

Those are the 2008 results for one of the quiet types mentioned above. Not too shabby at all, and he's got similar stats for his play on Full Tilt, as the graphic just shows Ongame results. You'd never guess it, though, if you met him, as he's as average as can be, still works part-time as he's involved in a strange niche industry and doesn't want to quit and leave his boss in a bind, as replacing him would be hard. Getting him to talk poker is easy, as far as strategy, playing hands, etc., but getting him to talk about his own success is next to impossible. He's suffered some of the worst beats I've seen in $10,000 buy-in events and was hardly fazed, only remarking that he's just grateful that poker still affords him the chance to get his money in so good against such bad players.

And on the other side of the fence we have this:

Unlike the solid, winning player above, it's almost impossible for this player to take a breath without mentioning this or that big tournament win of theirs. And they have had some big wins, as evidenced by the MTT profits. But they've bled it all back (plus some) in other formats, unable to stick to what works, playing in increasingly bigger games and increasingly losing more money. Any success they've had completely hamstrings them, as they feel entitled to more but can't back it up with results. When success doesn't come, it's always someone else's fault, a bad beat or suckout that crippled them late in a big tournament.

As much as I'd like to be the first player, I'm likely slightly more in the second player's camp, as much as it disappoints me to admit that. Well, minus the braggadocio. I need to get out of the trap on focusing only on what's taken from me at the tables instead of being grateful for all the donations, as only doom lies down that road. The only thing you should be entitled to is what you can earn from playing each and every street of each and every hand, to the best of your ability, at that moment in time. If you can outplay your opponents, you'll profit. If you can't, you won't. There's really not much more to it than that.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

ZOMG Online Poker is Illegal I'm Going to Jail

Indeed, I'm still alive. And it's pretty much more of the same, staying busy of late with a fair amount of poker, Fallout 3, and buying another investment property (well, not until December 22nd, when we officially close).

Here's the beaut of a 504 sq. ft. house that I'm buying, which runs you all of $8,500 in my neck of the woods:

It's actually not quite as bad as it looks, as the basic structure is in good shape and the interior has already been gutted in preparation of remodeling. With an addition on the back it'll be a decent little 2-1, about 650 sq. ft which should cashflow $250/$300 each month as a rental. One bright side of our economy swirling down the drain is that while trying to flip a house is increasingly difficult, finding potentially profitable rentals gets easier every day, especially if you're willing to tackle properties like the one above that obviously need a lot of work before they're livable. Which isn't a path to quick riches (boo), but a nice way to pick up rentals that immediately cash flow and have some equity in them, if you can pick them up cheaply enough and are smart with the renovations.

As far as poker goes, somehow or other I've found myself going full-circle and playing lots of LHE the last few weeks. 3/6 is the biggest LHE game that regularly runs on Cake with multiple tables, which is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it's just 3/6, so the upside is limited, but on the other hand it's like everyone just skips 1/2 and 2/4, so you get some crazy bad play at 3/6. Like Party Poker of ye olden times bad play, which even a lemur like myself can manage to profit from. Rakeback also piles up quickly when multi-tabling 4+ 6 max games, leading to a pretty damn juicy month in November at the tables. Traffic is also low enough at Cake that I actually won a decent sum of money in the November Cake rake race on RaketheRake, somthing impossible to do at FT or other high volume sites when competing against the insane grinders that play nine million hands a day.

Call me stupid, but I didn't think the 60 Minutes piece on UB/Absolute was all that bad, either from a reporting standpoint or as far as implications for the future of online poker. Yeah, sure, I kept yelling at the tv everytime they breezily mentioned online poker being illegal, but they got the basic facts right and could have cast things in a much more shady light than they did. At a certain point it's silly to claim that any of us involved with online poker are part of a misunderstood, socially uplifting activity. It isn't. We aren't. It's kind of shady and dodgy, as evidenced by the whole Kahnawakee regulatory situation and other similar things. It just is. That's the reality.

I also agree, of course, that it shouldn't be that way, and that a lot of the shadiness is a result of the US' ham-handed attempts to stamp out the unstampable, instead of embracing it, profiting from it, and making it legitimate. But that's just not where we are at the moment. Given where we are, lurking on the fringes, the 60 Minutes piece could have been so much worse. Because the UB/Absolute story was just about the worst thing that could have surfaced at just about the worst time, as far as online poker and legislation is involved. If this is the worst we suffer from that debacle, as far as inaccurate references to online poker being illegal and Dan Druff being kind of a dumbass when he should know better, well, I think we got off pretty light, all things considered.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Falllout 3 > Poker

I bought a copy of Fallout 3 pretty much on a whim, expecting to play it a bit then see it gather dust along with Guitar Hero and GTA IV (the only games I've bought for my fairly recently purchased Xbox 360) but man, that game is the bomb. Or the shizzle. Or the bombshizzle or whatever the hell the kids say these days.

It's been awhile since I've gotten sucked into a game like that, making me harken back to the days of yore when entire days would get sucked up by various Civ incarnations or, further back, in olden, olden times, Zelda or Metroid. Fun stuff, and especially nice to relax and completely and utterly waste a weekend after being pretty busy of late with various home renovation projects.

As far as poker, still playing a goodly number of the $50 NLH double-up SnGs on Cake, as well as some cash games and Aussie Millions satellites. I'm not sure why I bother with the satellites, as I manage to run insanely bad in those, to the point of ridiculosity. The weekly $440 Aussie Millions finals at Cake are really, really soft, usually with 120 or so players and the top 3 getting trip packages, with 10,000 chip starting stacks and initial blinds of 25/50.

I've made deep runs the last two weeks, finishing 12th and 16th, and this week's one was pretty painful, as manage to run up a very nice stack until I got crippled with a BB special, sitting on K2 in the BB with 4 limpers. Flop is J 2 2, rainbow, I check, praying that I can get action from someone, when the next player insta massively overshoves and another calls. I merrily call and am up against the mighty 10c 7c (the first shover) and KJo. Turn and river are running clubs that don't pair the board, which give Mr. TenSeven a monsterpotten for the chip lead and leaves me with just 10,000 or so chips.

Build back up, double up a few times, get back to a bit over average, then lose with KK versus QQ in a hand that'd have put me in the top 5. Bust out two hands later when 10 10 can't hold versus A4o. Whee, poker.

Have to say that I'm very ready for this election to be done, one way or the other, and we can get down to the ugly business of facing up to the situation the US is currently in. The economy is still well and truly screwed, and deteriorating each month, and sooner or later we have to face up to the gluttony of the past and come to terms with what we're in for the next 24-36 months. Not that we will, regardless of who is elected, but at least we won't have the scapegoat of Bush and cronies to pin all the blame on (even if a good measure of it is justifiably pinned to his monkey lapels).

Ironically enough, I'm actually up about 30% on the year in our main IRA account, so I guess I can't bitch too much. Most of those gains came from riding the market down in various short ETFs, then catching a big chunk of the recent mini-rally, as well as moving a big chunk of long term capital into SLW and other mining stocks when they cratered in late October. I'm probably going to go short again in late November, probably loading for bear in double inverse ETFs like SCC and REW, as all signs point to an absolutely brutal winter for retailers and tech companies, with spending falling off a cliff of late.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Testing...Testing...Is This Thing On?

Long time no post, indeed. I wish I had a ton of exciting news to relate but meh, not so much.

Things have been fairly busy but not extraordinarily so. Had another gig working for PokerRoom at the WPT event at Niagara Falls, tackled tons of home improvement projects (at our actual home for once), and have generally stayed busy with all the monkey work that keeps me busy.

Exciting stuff, yes?

I haven't had time or motivation to play much poker over the last few months, and what I have played has been at Cake Poker. In a dumb, superstitious monkey move, I decided to give Cake a whirl after getting absolutely brutalized at Full Tilt of late.

Indeed, I know, very silly to claim that a certain site has it in for you, but it'd reached the point where I was absolutely certain I'd be knocked out of yet another Full Tilt tournament late with AA versus 36 sooooooooooted when I'd look down to see a dreaded monster starting hand, and that's no way to be playing. Cake isn't much to look at and the interface is clunky enough to almost rival Bodog, but it's definitely got some soft games. I've mostly been playing cash games, along with some of the double or nothing SnGs they offer with the top five doubling their buy-ins. Still a small sample size but those seem especially soft, even at the $50 and $100 buy-in levels, as a good third of the table seems to have absolutely no clue as to adjusting their play to a SnG structure like that.

Still plugging away at the day job, but the ties that bind are becoming increasingly flimsy. There's a decent chance of sizable layoffs at some point if the economy stays in the toilet and our stock continues to trade at a 5 year low, and I'm perversely almost hoping to be a victim, as they tend to offer nice severance packages and getting the hell out of here is long, long overdue.

In the same perverse universe I live in, I'm thinking about giving the house flipping thing a go full-time, as I've worked out a line of credit with one of our local banks that'll finally give me enough capital to comfortably tackle another flip. Obviously the timing could be better as far as market conditions, but central Texas has managed to avoid a lot of the housing carnage, the job market is still strong here, and people still need houses to live in. I still think I could make a go of it, especially if that was my full-time job and I tackled much of the renovation work myself. It'd be much work and a far cry from Flip That House, where investors make a few phone calls and conjure up a mythical profit of $150,000, but it'd beat the hell out of endless TPS reports and performance reviews seemingly every other week.

And look! No political talk at all! Still highly interested in such things but the impending Obama landslide pretty much does all of the talking necessary.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Republican Party, FTL!

Dear Republican Party,

Is there anything you can get right these days? Anything? Bueller? Anyone? Bueller?

I mean, for the love of Jebus. You at least used to get more things right than not on the economic side of things, which is why in the past I'd grudgingly considered myself more Republican than anything else. You took care of those lucky enough to be privileged, and I'm a largely greedy monkey who was lucky enough to be privileged, so, you know, you had me there.

I could almost overlook all that bad crap ya'll don't like to talk about publicly much (you know, the rampant racism, sucking the blood of the poor and middle class, and all the weird Old Testament close-mindedness about abortion and gay marriage) and call myself a Republican. Almost.

But man, you're seriously struggling at the plate these days. You've got a ninety million year old man running for President who 90% of you left for dead when the nomination process began, a VP candidate who gets easily confused when spoken to in polysyllabic words, and you're now leading the charge to protect all the ordinary Americans from the evil of corporations and big government by opposing the bailout package. When the bailout package is exactly what those ordinary Americans need most, in this utterly screwed up insolvent place we've found ourselves in.

How many speeches from Warren Buffet and other smart economic minds do you need to convince yourself that this is a necessary evil? Forty-three? Seven thousand and thirty five? Do you honestly and truly believe that Paulson, Bernanke, et al are just bluffing, and that none of this is necessary at all and all of this work itself out just fine? Really? How many enormous financial institutions have to go belly up before you decide that, umm, yeah, I guess we should try to do something about this, even if it means raising taxes?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bailout, FTW!

Again, it'd almost be funny that it's NOW that the GOP decides to dig in its heels and look after Joe and Suzy Mainstreet, fighting the bailout tooth and nail, with the icy cold water spilling over the deck already up to their necks.

Almost funny, just like Palin babbling on about Putin rearing his head while defending her "foreign policy" experience, or getting confused when Katie uses way, way too many word when asking her a pretty direct question:

But, ultimately, not funny at all. The bailout isn't about golden parachutes or Wall St. fat cats getting fatter. It's an absolutely necessary, desperate Hail Mary, close-you-eyes-in-best-Brett-Farvian-style-and-chunk-it-downfield play call. We have no choice at this stage. We may not like it, but it's got to get done.

You may have huge issues (and should have huge issues with it) but the root cause of this goes back 5 or 6 years. Railing against the effects of something you allowed to happen (and even encouraged and profited from) five or six years ago is like refusing to put your house out, when it's on fire, because you're finally sick and tired of putting out fires your darling little pyromaniac child keeps lighting (with the flame thrower you bought him last Christmas, after he got back from attending Fire Camp for the fifth straight year).

And, seriously, the house is fucking on fire right now. Full on involved conflagration. WaMu, with more than $300 billion in assets, just went belly up. Insolvent. Didn't have the bankroll to even play a $1 SnG on Full Tilt. Largest bank failure (by far) of any financial institution in the history of the United States of America. Bye bye.

But, somehow, it's exactly now that assorted congresspeople (primarily those of the GOP persuasion) decide to bow up and make a stand for Joe and Suzy. Wiretap their phones? Hell, sure, whatever. And a little waterboarding never REALLY hurt anyone but those Muslim terrorists, and screw them anyway. An escalating regressive tax structure? Oh, hells yes, sign me up, roll it out, let's make us some money.

But a bailout that would just cost taxpayers money? Oh no. Hells no. Because it's all about looking out for the people, you know. Oh no. No, no, no, no, no....

*Face palm*

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

GG America?

Very interesting times to be living in the US, especially in regards to the US economy and financial infrastructure. The unthinkable just a few short years ago (Lehman effectively ceasing to exist, AIG teetering on the brink, et al) not only becoming thinkable but full-blown reality, with the brutal end coming in just a matter of a few short days.

And, honestly, there's really no end in sight, at least not for years, once the momentum starts to build. WaMu is very likely next, with the US government, once again, eventually being forced to step in and bail out yet another financial institution that "cannot be allowed to fail." Each bail out, though, is effectively just prolonging the larger, slow-motion failure that's coming home to roost after eight years of historic, epic failure on the part of the current administration that will likely never be eclipsed.

(Note: funny in that I saved the above as a draft about a week ago, before the $700 billion bailout news hit the wires, and that the unthinkable became even more super-duper-unthinkable).

So, umm, yeah. Wow. Not that the $700 billion bailout plan isn't eye-popping enough, but the audacity of Paulson and his buddy Ben to think they can ram this thing through with absolutely no oversight or checks and balances, just by using lots of dire, scary words like "recession", "catastrophic consequences", and "failure". And the icing on the cake of Bush standing tall and shaking his little monkey fist, threatening to veto any legislation that isn't a simple blank bailout check. Wth none of them all that concerned, really, and not giving much of a damn about appearances. as they know they'll get exactly what they want in a few days, because that's how the system works, because that's how they've made the system.

It's this sort of thing that baffles me in the context of the current election and how the mantle of "change" is alternately mocked and embraced, seemingly at random. I'm a pretty piss-poor Democrat these days, and fall on the Republican side of the fence on more than a few issues (and, honestly, I'd have probably voted for the old pre-sellout McCain over Kerry, if McCain had gotten the nomination), but how this election is anything other than an Obama landslide is beyond me. And, really, a pretty terrificly depressing thing to ponder, as it speaks more to flat-out racism and bigotry more than anything else.

I don't think Obama is a savior. Far from it. But for the love of Jebus, isn't it time to try something new? How many more signs do you need that the current status quo isn't working? Yes, indeed, it'll be more of the same with Obama, and we'll still struggle with crippling national debt, unpopular wars, and creaking, groaning infrastructure that's showing its age. We'll struggle with that for many, many years. There's no avoiding it, as too many chickens are coming home to roost, and we've largely turned into a fat, lazy nation of TV-obsessed mouth breathers with mounting personal debt and negative savings rate.

But thumping our chests and trampling on anyone in our way isn't the way forward. Cronyism isn't the way forward. More tax cuts for the wealthy isn't the way forward. More water boarding and phone taps. More governing from a personal sense of entitlement and divine guidance. We've tried all that. It ain't working, kids. It just flat out isn't working.

And I'll be the first to admit that voting for "Someone Else" (in this case Obama) isn't the best situation to find oneself in, but that's exactly the spot this country is in. While it's pretty funny to watch the wheels fall off the Palin sideshow as its exposed for exactly what it is, it's also pretty damn sad to watch our electoral process be mocked by the rest of the world for the Springer episode that it's rapidly devolving into. Funny but sad.

In the end, who knows. I hope we elect someone who manages to steer us through the current mess this country is mired in. Or at least puts us on a different path than the one we're on, one with a decent chance of navigating through the muck. If that means higher taxes, then tax the crap out of me. If that means short term pain, then bring the pain. Just stop pretending that this country is on the right path and that with faith in God and a little more trickle-down economics, we'll plow through this little rough patch just fine and be back to glory days in no time flat.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

LOL Politics

I had a big honking draft of a post regarding political matters, but finally had the good sense to just delete it, as pretty much any blogger posting about politics could serve as a textbook definition for anyone wondering what the phrase "monkey humping a football" means. But by all means, keep 'em coming, as the unintentional comedy is pretty priceless.

The only thing I really have to say is thank God people are at least engaged and talking about politics. I may completely disagree with Palin's stance that if a half Negro/half Islamic terrorist rapes and impregnates your daughter or wife that she should be forced to have the baby, but at least it's getting the issue out there for discussion, for debate. Just like all of those fake dinosaur fossils planted in the ground by God to test your faith, when He wasn't busy directly whispering her ear that natural gas pipelines are a necessary and crucial part of His grand plan. it's very refreshing that both parties are finally addressing the process of real change, of tackling the tough issues at the core beliefs of all the candidates, and not just trying to put out a slick, smiling package designed to appeal to (insert name of target demographic here).

As far as poker, things are actually rolling along pretty well. I'd gravitated towards playing more SnGs and MTTs over the last few months in lieu of cash games, but found myself with fairly skewed stats. I was doing well in satellites and smaller field MTTs, but donking back anything I made in those to large field, bigger buy-in MTTs.

Smarter people than myself would have seen the logical conclusion there (stop plauing large field, bigger buy-in MTTs) but I persisted for quite awhile before finally giving in to the cold, harsh truth. So for the last month or so I've been playing a ton of satellites on Saturday/Sunday, mostly to the $750K Guaranteed, and just unregistering and pocketing the T$, using those to play a bunch of $24 and $36 Turbo SnGs.

Not the most exciting poker existence to live, as there's never a potential payoff of more than $216 on the line, but it's been fairly profitable, with a ROI of 10% for the SnGs and about 40% for the assorted satellites (anything from the $3 shootouts up to the $75 ones, with various field sizes). I naturally lapse into a more screwed-down style in MTTs and rarely play aggressively (i.e. correctly) enough to build the stack I need to be a real force, but it'd make sense that I'd have more success in satellites, as far as simply needing to outlast 10% or so of the field, and nothing more.

I'll be off to Niagara Falls in just under a month for the WPT Canada event with PokerRoom, but then nothing on the schedule (for now) until next April. We've been pretty busy with work on our house, trying to get assorted stuff done by late October in time for the wife's 30th birthday party, as she's planning quite a shindig. Odds are actually improving on everything getting done, but probably still 75/25 at this point, as tackling one thing just spawns three more, etc.

I haven't quite convinced myself to leap back into the real estate investment waters but I'm pretty close, as discussions with a local bank led to them offering me a line of credit for real estate purchases/renovations that would not only make a potential project more profitable, but would ease some of the headaches caused by tapping into savings for repair costs. I can't say I'm very bullish on either the housing market or the general US economy for the next 18-24 months, but there are still people out there flipping houses and making money. If I can find a property at the right price (and with the backup plan of being able to rent it profitably), I may give it another whirl and see what happens.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wow, baby, wow...

Yikes. I'd vaguely remembered assorted coverage mentioning Scotty's drunken shenanigans in this year's $50K HORSE, but I wasn't at all expecting THAT particular streak of mean-ass, belligerent drunk that emerged (at least in the ESPN coverage).

I can't pretend to have much inside knowledge of either the situation or Scotty, so maybe that's just par for the course when he's pounding beers. Maybe DiMichele was asking for it based on douchebaggery behavior that wasn't shown on the ESPN broadcast. I dunno.

But that was pretty painful to watch. Interesting, don't get me wrong (and I'd argue that episodes like that are actually better for poker's popularity in the grand scheme of things than yet another slick, instantly-forgettable ten minutes later final table where everyone acts gentlemanly and some unknown person wins). But man, Scotty, that was a fucking poor performance, on all streets.

You know you've stepped over the line when Lindgren of all people goes from casting you occasional baffled, slightly amused looks to outright telling you to fuck off, in no uncertain terms. Very justified, no doubt, especially when Scotty was openly alluding to collusion, or lack thereof.

Equally sad (again, just based on the hands that were shown) is the fact that Scotty was playing like he was hammered, as well. I'm making no claims to be a better HORSE player than Scotty (I'd probably struggle to outplay one of his monkeys), but I have no clue what he was even doing in half the hands they showed, much less what the hell he was doing when he'd somehow river some junky two pair to scoop and then suddenly decide to check-raise.

Aside from seeing Scotty live up to his general perception as one of the better ambassadors to poker at event after event when he'd always take time to stop and talk to the adoring masses (even if it meant it took him a half hour to get the hell out of the hallway outside the Amazon room0, my one personal encounter with him at the 2007 WPT Legends event was pretty positive. I was working in the joke of a media room they'd set up in the sushi bar, huddled on a piano bench, and for no reason whatsoever he stopped to talk to me, asking me why the hell they made us work there, shot the shit for 15 minutes or so, and bought me a beer.

Just a weird, weird display. I guess the take-away is to never underestimate the power of alcohol to turn some people into raging assholes. Or, you know, something much deeper about demons that we all carry around, lurking under the surface, yada yada yada.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Those Crazy Bonus Whoring Days of Yore

Back before I got sucked into Vegas and the WSOP, I got a request for a paid review here of, which despite its prony-sounding name is a great place for poker bonus info, including no deposit poker bonuses and more.

I turned down any payment for such a review, offering instead to do one on the house (sorry for the delay in getting my ass in gear and posting this), as the BW site was what got me involved in the whole world of cashing in on casino bonuses, so many moons ago, which in turn led to me making a ridiculous amount of money on the affiliate side of things when I ran out of good bonuses for myself and started singing the praises of such things to others via these pages. So I felt like I owed them, at the very least, some linkage here and there and a few positive words.

'Tis kind of crazy to think back on those days now, in all sorts of ways. I definitely miss the affiliate money and the chance to gambool it up (and do it +EV style) with sticky casino bonuses, and it was nice to generally have a decent amount of cash always sitting in Neteller, as it took some pressure off to watch the poker bankroll like a hawk as I do these days.

But, at the same time, it was definitely a bubble economy, and doomed to come to an end, UIGEA or not. That little piece of legislation definitely sped things up, but the writing was on the wall already as far as gobs of free easy money drying up.

In a bit of a holding pattern poker-wise of late, as I've been playing more MTTs and, unfortunately, realizing I'm pretty much a break-even MTT player at the moment. Had two baby cashes in FTOPS events so far but nothing major, and a lot of other satellites and smaller events (including a dumb-ass fit of stubbornness when I pissed away nearly $300 playing the cracktastic 100 chip super turbo SnGs trying to qualify for a FTOPS event I didn't even really want to play) ate most of that profit.

I should honestly just stick to grinding the smaller satellites to various events, as I've got about a 40% ROI in those, but I inevitably end up giving the profits back looking for a big score in either a FTOPS or big guarantee event.

I've been catching up on HSP of late, as for some reason I stopped watching the last few seasons, so that's been fun to get back into, especially the Jamie Gold episodes. Sweet Jebus. I can barely sit through any WPT episode these days but have been watching the new ESPN WSOP broadcasts on Tuesdays, which I've thought have been pretty good so far.

Friday, July 18, 2008

In Which He Rambles About Many, Many Things

It's always very strange to get back home after a tournament reporting gig for PokerRoom, and even moreso when it's the Main Event. I'm not sure I could spend 3+ weeks anywhere and it not seem odd to leave and be back home, but the effect is even more dramatic when the backdrop is the pressure cooker of the WSOP, with the oddity that is Las Vegas always looming in the background.

Very glad to be home, indeed, but still acclimating to the notion that the daily routine is going to a day job that increasingly drives me crazy, with a mountain of half-finished home improvement projects staring me in the face, and nine million other things I need/want/feel obligated to get done. More and more the draw of Vegas for me is that it provides the perfect, anonymous excuse to focus on exactly the task at hand, whatever that may be. And that's kind of refreshing, despite how exhausting Vegas can be.

I guess it was a good trip. Plenty of long 14-16 hour work days, a good bit more bureaucratic/organizational head-butting that I expected, and many crappy Pizza Hut mini-pizzas and nachos consumed. I can't say it was more work than I expected, as I was expecting a lot, but it ended up being a narrower sort of work, as covering 70+ players didn't leave much space for color or fluff, basically just how they were doing in the Main Event. One of the nice things about the smaller trips I've worked at WPT events is getting to hang out and get to know the players, which was missing at the WSOP as everything was pretty much a mad rush to keep everything as updated as possible.

As far as the WSOP itself, things ran pretty smoothly, so a hat tip to Harrah's there. The media credential process was a complete clusterfuck but I somehow or other ended up with a press pass, despite being emailed repeatedly to be told I was denied. I just played dumb when I checked in and said I'd never heard back from them, they consulted a list and said "You're right here, you're approved". Mmkay.

The media press box in the tournament room was a nice addition (although I was camped out in the bunker media room pretty much the entire time) and the new color coding system for various areas and overflow rooms was a huge improvement over previous years. Except for one day when tournament staff seemingly lost their minds and started randomly breaking and re-breaking and re-re-breaking tables even in the same area (we had a player that moved tables 7 times in the span of two hours), they did a good job on the crazy busy days of not just finding space for all the tables but in moving people into the main Amazon room as soon as possible.

It was also very cool to watch Iggy feint and dodge his way to a nice cash, and the PokerRoom qualifiers ended up doing pretty well for themselves, with eight of them cashing. The deepest finish was something like 160th, so no huge scores but a big improvement over last year when just one player cashed, and most of the guys that cashed play fairly low stakes, so the money was a pretty big deal to them.

As far as the decision to delay the final table, I went in thinking it was a fairly dumb idea and left feeling much the same. While you can argue that Harrah's was "unlucky" that neither Tiffany Michelle, Phil Hellmuth, or Mike Matusow made it through to the final table, one (or more) of them making it to the final nine players would have definitely been bucking the recent trend. The odds were that Harrah's would end up with a pretty anonymous seven-eight players plus an Allen Cunningham or Lee Watkinson type pro. Instead they ended up with nine pretty much anonymous players, which is a slight beat but should have been largely expected.

My previous chief (and current) complaint about the change is that I never bought into the premise that there would suddenly be a frenzy of media coverage about the final nine (I'm sorry to be the grumpy old man, but "November Nine" is just about the cheesiest way possible to refer to the 2008 Main Event final table participants) that would improve ratings, draw more people to poker, yada yada yada. That premise wasn't based on much hard evidence other than Harrah's and ESPN really wanted it to be true. It also wasn't backed up by any structured publicity plan (such as requiring or buying in the finalists to play in the WSOPE or any other events between now and November) and was floated out there with lots of promise and promises but not much in the way of details or hard facts to back it up.

So now we have our final nine, and the hype machine is supposed to be gearing up, with online sites battling it out over sponsorship rights, interviews and stories of the players filling newspapers, online outlets, and television broadcasting, and the general public coming to know and root for their favorite players.

And maybe that's happening, but if so I'm missing it. I'm sure there's some behind-the-scenes stuff going on to try to lure players to sponsor assorted sites, but that's never going to be the sort of stuff that makes great press, as by its nature its typically private negotiations. From where I'm sitting, it seems like the 2008 Main Event has pretty much already been forgotten. Sure, interest will be sparked again in November when nine random dudes try to win a lot of money, but any explosion of poker interest in the general media seems to be a bit of a dud.

I don't think it's going to be a terrible disaster or a ratings killer, but it's hard for me to see Harrah's/ESPN (or poker as a whole) gaining anything from it, with the disruption in the end being a pain in the ass with little added benefit. I wouldn't be surprised at all if they revert to the old format next year, especially if they end up moving the whole she-bang to Caesar's as they keep threatening to do.

The UB/AP superuser scandal continues to baffle me in various ways, chiefly as far as why the hell people continue to play there (the games aren't THAT soft) and why apologists keep repeating, over and over, that Tokwiro (who purchased AP and UB from the original founders) is doing the best it can to clean up an ugly situation that it inherited.

They didn't "inherit" anything. They bought it. They purchased assets with one motive: to profit from the purchase. It turns out that there were hidden liabilites that they were unaware of. Those liabilities and any resulting consequences are solely Tokwiro's to bear. End of story.

To be fair, based on the info out there so far there's no way in hell they could have known about the liabilities, even if they performed the best due diligence in the world before the purchase. Which sucks mightily for Tokwiro, indeed, but it doesn't in any way affect the reasonably valid argument that the book should be thrown at UB/AP and those sites should cease to exist.

Haven't been playing a ton of poker myself, but still getting in a decent number of hands. Poker play during the Main Event was mostly a wash, as I was about +$1,500 playing 1/2 NL at Mandalay Bay but -$900 from various tournaments, and about -$300 from video poker and slots. I played in four tournaments and outlasted 80% of the field in each but couldn't get any love towards the end. The cash games treated me well and I should have just parked my ass there, as I had pretty decent tables every time I sat down.

Most of the cash game profit came from one three hour session where I sat down and immediately went on a nice rush, running my $200 buy-in into just over $1,000. I doubled up with AA vs. KK and then doubled again about ten minutes later when I cracked aces with 79s.

In other completely random news, the day job still sucks. Mightily. Seriously contemplating a pretty major upheaval on that front (new job + relocating to another entire continent) but it'd take a lot of puzzle pieces to correctly fall into place for it to be a reality.

Had another baby cash in the Sunday $750,000 Guaranteed on Full Tilt but got mega coolered at the end (AK < KJ; 1010 < 77; and KK < QQ). Some day, some way I'm actually going to go deep in one of these. The sad thing is that after playing assorted big tourneys off and on for nearly 4 years now, a trained monkey that just shoves all-in with any hand that has an A in it would likely have managed a deeper run than I have by now. I rocks at teh poker.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Exactly Two Cents on Google and Poker Blogs

Pretty much completely swamped and exhausted after the grind of covering the first four days of the Main Event, but here's my very quick take on what has everyone a twitter regarding Google and poker-related sites suddenly disappearing from search results, coming from someone who has been pretty closely involved in such things for going on 8 years now.

1) Google has been penalizing sites for selling links for quite awhile now. This isn't a new development and it's likely not just the poker niche that's being targeted or affected. They basically declared war on link selling sites such as TextLinkAds months ago. Inbound links and the anchor text attached to those links is still the primary tool that Google uses to order and rank search results, and they actively try to protect that by punishing sites they can identify as link sellers, since that could potentially torpedo their entire system.

2) What is a slightly new wrinkle is that in the past Google was been zeroing out PageRank for sites that openly sell links, but hasn't been penalizing them in search results. So if you sold links on a home page that previously had a PR of 5, the PR would display as 0 after you were "penalized", but your page would still rank normally for various search terms.

Their intention was to scare off advertisers that look only at PR when buying links or ad space without actively harming the site displaying the ads in search results. That sort of worked, but advertisers got savvy and realized the ads and links they bought were still effective, even on PR 0 pages, so they just kept buying and renewing ads.

3) Now Google seems to be stepping it up a bit, and penalizing both the site itself that is selling ads by suppressing their pages in search results, but also penalizing the sites that are buying links and ads. It's the last bit that's important, as those sites would continue to buy ad space on other sites regardless of the PR if buying those ads meant they continued to rank highly for the terms they were targeting. If you render those link and ad purchases ineffective, well, that's a pretty decent way of stopping the practice of selling links and ads on sites.

4) If you're confused and think this is highly hypocritical, hurrah, you're right! Large media sites openly sell ad space each and every day (just take a gander at CNN et al and note all the ad slots available for sale), yet Google allows them to merrily go about their business.

5) As far as what you, a humble poker blogger, can or should do about this, well, the sad answer is not much. Adding no follow links is pretty much all you can do if you want to play by Google's rules, but most advertisers won't renew any ads if you do that. Each advertiser is going to have to make the decision themselves as to whether they will continue their ad campaigns or not. Some will, as not all sites have been equally affected so far. Others won't. Not a lot you can do about it other than sitting tight and seeing how it plays out.

6) There's also a chance that Google will undo what's currently affecting sites, as it's almost guaranteed to be algorithmic in nature, and not penalties doled out by hand. There have been many times when Google rolls out a change to its algorithm and has subsequently backed up and undone it, reverting to the old algorithm when the changes resulted in too much hubbub or crap search results. Its highly unlikely that poker sites were targeted specifically, so other people in other niches will also likely soon start squawking, and if enough people squawk Google has been known to take heed and react accordingly in the past.

7) RIP Waffles' "bankroll".

Monday, June 30, 2008

No Tournament Birthday Love

So yesterday was my birthday. Yay, me. Creeping ever closer to 35, which is halfway to 40. Jebus. How in the world did that happen?

Playing a $1,500 NL tournament at the Rio wasn't going to work schedule-wise, so I played the $540 deep stack tournament (sorry, Roman overlords, but I refuse to refer to it as a "megastack" tournament no matter what you say) yesterday at Caesar's instead. 50 minute levels and 15,000 starting stacks made for quite a bit of play. Which was good, because I needed every single bit of it to keep my head above water as long as I did.

I was pretty surprised at the quality of play, as I expected it to be similar to the Venetian deep stacks tourneys I played back in April (which had the inevitable dead money but all in all had pretty competent players) but no, not so much. We lost three or four players in the first few hours who called off all their chips with hands like K10 on a K high flop, 88 on a Q 10 4 flop, etc.

I managed to lose a good chunk of my stack in the second level (about 8K) when I flopped top set but couldn't chase out a guy with the nut flush draw, who got there on the river. For the next 8 hours or so, I was rocking a pretty short stack, usually between 5K and 15K, and teetering on the brink the whole damn time.

For most of that time the biggest hand I had to work with was 22, but I managed to steal and re-steal enough to stay on life support. Frustrating, though, as I needed a double up (or three) to have any breathing room and just couldn't get it, or even find a decent enough hand to make a stand with facing early action, as I was more than ready to lump it in with something like 89s, J10s to try to double or end my misery.

I did have sort of a funny hand at the 200/400 level, when I was sitting on about 7,200. It folded around to me in the CO and I had 6h8h, and the blinds were super-super tight older guys. I'd been folding for about an hour myself, so it was a pretty safe assumption that the blinds would get out of the way unless they had a really strong hand.

My only worry was the button, who was the stereotypical clueless poker fanboi, who didn't shut up from the moment he sat down and told some long-winded story about Phil Laak but kept insisting his nickname was "The Jackal", talked about his high level strategy plays such as running a "stop and start", and so on. He was kinda steaming after he got caught bluffing in a hand (after he was re-raised he tanked for a long time, but kept checking his watch while he was in the tank, and finally folded then told the table that the "punishment" for re-raising him was that he'd make you wait at least 3 minutes before he acted) and had been over-shoving a good bit.

My stack was kinda awkward-sized for shoving so I opened for 1,200, ready to turbo-muck if either of the super-tight old dudes woke up as I could still limp along with 6,000 and blinds of 200/400 and raising much more than 1,200 leaves me pretty committed. Button and SB folded but BB instantly perked up and shoved, and I dwelled a bit to look appropriately pained and mucked.

Standard enough, except Fanboi starts clapping and congratulating the old guy, saying something along the lines of "Man, great read. Soul read." And kept on chattering about it for five minutes or so, until I finally couldn't help myself and asked him why he thought it was a great read on the BB's part. Looking at me like I regularly ride the short bus, he says "Because he knew you were on air." Mmmkay, fair enough. Super read, sir. You indeed have your finger on the pulse of the table.

After about 8 hours of short stack misery, I finally doubled with JJ versus AK, then got donkfish lucky right before the dinner break, in the BB with A2s and it folded to the SB, who was short-stacked and had been talking for thirty minutes about doubling or going home so as not to have to prolong the misery through the dinner break. He shoves and while I have him covered, it's only by about 10K (and blinds are 1K/2K after the break). I hate calling with A2s there as I'm very likely to be ahead of his range in that spot but only marginally ahead at best. But fuck it, I called, and he actually had AKo, so I'm looking pretty stupid until a 2 flops and holds up.

Won another big pot after the break and finally, nearly 11 hours into play, I'm close to average stack again, with about 60K and average stack of 65K, with about 80 players left and top 45 spots paying. With blinds of 1,500/3,000 I'm in the BB and look down to find KK, which is the biggest hand I've had all day. Of course it folds around to the SB and I'm mentally muttering and swearing when he instantly says "All-in".

He's got about 80K in chips and has been fairly active but not too crazy, and seems to know what he's doing. I pause for a tiny bit trying to make sense of such a ridiculous overshove giving the blinds and our stacks, but hell, I think I need to stop playing poker if I ever fold kings there.

I call and he immediately says "Oh no," which pretty much rules out aces. He instead rolls over J9o, and I immediately get that sinking feeling of dread. J on the flop, 9 on the turn pretty much confirms sinking feeling of dread, and that's all she wrote.

Not really sure what to make of the end there, as it's one of those odd cases where none of it makes sense. He wasn't an idiot or short-stacked and blinds and antes weren't big enough to make such a move very worthwhile, as his normal raise of 3-4xBB would have done the trick if I had nothing. He decides to pull that move for the first time the one time I have a huge hand, on my birthday, after patiently scratching and clawing away all day to keep myself alive and finally picking up some chips (and poised to pick up a ton more), and it proceeds to work out perfectly for him.

So, err, thanks poker gods. I guess I could have gone on a mad coke and hookers binge if I'd gone on to cash big in the tournament, so maybe you really were looking out for me.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

World's Worst Angle Shooter Ever

I never thought I'd say this, but American Airlines actually managed to deliver me to Las Vegas yesterday without screwing up anything terribly. One connecting flight was 45 minutes late leaving the gate but that's pretty small potatoes based on my past experiences with the beast that is AA, so a grudging tip of the hat there.

Checking in at Mandalay Bay went off without a hitch, and I'm digging it so far. Other than being in BFE compared to my usually haunts (Caesar's/Venetian), it's pretty nice, and it's a welcome change to get out of the Bellagio, as backwards as that may sound. Much more eye candy to look at (well, that's not paid for eye candy) and it's nice to be able to grab a cheeseburger and fries in the sportsbook for less than $20, or a coffee and muffin for less than $15.

I got in too late to hit any of the noon tournaments yesterday so I ended up catching up on some PokerRoom work, then played some $1/2 NL at the Mandalay Bay poker room. After about five hours of play I finished down $20 or so, so yeah, not too eventful a session personally, as I won some smallish pots here and there but never really got involved in any big pots.

When I sat down, though, there was already all kinds of shit breaking loose, and it took bout ten seconds to realize why. Two to my right was a super drunk guy drinking Heinekens that was absolutely terrible but had apparently been running over the table, catching flushes, straights, you name it. He'd show his hand every single time, win or lose, would show every time he mucked at any point (even preflop), and exposed his hand two or three times when there was still live action at the table.

So on the down side, we were getting in about 4 hands an hour due to his shenanigans, but he was sitting on about $1,500 and doing everything he could to give it back. I sat down right as he was taking another big pot off the guy to my right, who was a muscley tatted up guy from Brooklyn who was decent but thought he was much better at poker than he really was (like that description doesn't apply to approximately ten million people). Tattoo Guy was pissed about losing the hand but also pissed that another player. Young Asian Kid, also came along for most of the action, as Tattoo Guy had wanted to isolate Drunk Guy.

Tattoo Guy keeps telling Young Asian Kid (who was pretty much the only player at the table who knew what the hell he was doing) "You stay out of my way, I stay out of yours. You take your turn, I'll take mine. We're after him. You understand what I mean? Hey, buddy, you know what I mean? You hear what I'm saying?" And Young Asian Kid keeps nodding at him and trying to shut him up, as he's indeed on that trolley. But Tattoo Guy keeps persisting, as he apparently won't stop asking until he gets a clear verbal declaration as such, until the dealer inevitably steps in and says "Guys, that sounds bad. Play however you want at the table but don't talk directly about stuff like that."

Tattoo Guy doesn't like this at all, especially coming from a female dealer, and he keeps insisting that he can say whatever he wants, as he's the customer, the dealer is there to deal, etc. Dealer calls the floor, the floor warns him, and about fifteen minutes later the inevitable explosion occurs.

Drunk Guy makes his usual open raise to $15 from MP, and Tattoo Guy bumps it up to $40. The BB cold calls (just sat down at the table and hadn't done much noteworthy but he semed kind of inexperiences just from his demeanor) and Drunk Guy calls.

Flop is As 7c 8s. BB checks, Drunk Guy checks, and Tattoo Guy bets out $100. BB check-raises all-in for about $150 more and Drunk Guy gleefully starts talking, saying "Oh man, I have to. I have to. I can't fold this hand." Then he momentarily forgets where he is and has to be reminded of the action so far. He's playing with mounds of dirty stacks and he finally just shoves a huge pile of red chips into the middle after the action is explained to him.

Tattoo Guy instantly says "Call", plain as day. He's sitting right beside me and isn't a quiet dude. So the dealer starts counting out Drunk Guy's dirty stack to see if it covers Tattoo Guy (who had about $300 behind after he led out for $100 on the flop). As she's doing that, Drunk Guy proudly tables Ks 2s and declares "Flush draw" . BB looks around slightly confused, as the dealer is still counting, then tables Ad 8c for top two pair. Tattoo Guy goes real quiet and then reluctantly turns over 10s 9s.

Drunk Guy's raise covered Tattoo Guy, so the dealer finishes counting it and tells Tattoo Guy that he needs to put at least one stack of chips across the betting line to signify that he called all-in. And he pauses for a beat, and you can just see the grimy wheels turning, and then he goes mock-ballistic and bellows "WHAT ARE YOU FUCKING TALKING ABOUT I NEVER SAID I CALLED!"

At first he tries to claim that he said "He called", that he was working the action through in his head and "accidentally said it out loud". (As in "Hmm, brain, what can they have? He check-raised, he called..."). The dealer is absolutely not buying it, but he adamantly swears she's a lying bitch. The floor is called, it's all explained, and half the table is vocally backing the dealer up, saying Tattoo Guy clearly said "Call". For whatever reason, Tattoo Guy singles me out, and says that I was sitting right next to him, what did I think he said?

Sigh. I said he definitely said "Call", not "He called?" or any variation of that. And he immediately responds, "Exactly. I said 'Call', with a question mark. 'Call?' I didn't know if he raised or called. I said 'Call?'" The very best part is that every time he said "Call?", he way overemphasized the rising inflection at the end, but unintentionally did it in a Scooby-Doo voice, which was pretty damn funny to hear, especially in rapid succession.

Floor rules it a call, Drunk Guy spikes a spade to scoop another big pot, and Tattoo Guy eventually gets a forced time-out as he won't stop bitching at the dealer after the hand is over. Drunk Guy unfortunately gets cut off at the bar and immediately racks up his +$2,000 in chips (boo), and no more fireworks for the rest of the night. Well, minus Tattoo Guy coming back from his time-out to buy back in, double up, and then donk off all his chips to Young Asian Kid when Tattoo Guy called a 5 bet shove preflop with just JJ and was of course up against AA, which held up to bust Tattoo Guy.

Moral of the story? Beware the $1/2 NL games at Mandalay Bay, as there are some pretty skilled angle shooters lying in wait for you, trying to take all of your mobneys.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

T-Minus 4 Days

Sweet jebus, time is passing quickly. I keep thinking in my head that while I'm flying out to Vegas on June 28th for the gig covering the 2008 WSOP for PokerRoom, that's still like a month off, so I have plenty of time to take care of assorted stuff before jetting off. Umm, yeah, not so much. Commence the mad scrambling to get tons of stuff done as I won't be back until July 16th.

Which is a long damn time. The wife is coming out July 1st-July 6th, so that'll be nice, but I'm already dreading being away from home that long. my birthday is June 29th, so it'll kind of suck to be away all by my lonesome for that. On the work side of things, I'm pretty excited, as it's much different than last year when I set sail and had absolutely no idea what to expect, and things are a lot more structured and planned out this year, much less intimidating, and all that good stuff.

Plus I'm looking forward to actually playing some poker, and with the sale (finally) of the last flip house I did, I actually have a bankroll to work with on this trip, as opposed to the last few trips where I was playing on a pretty short roll. I've flipped-flop a bit on whether to play some of the $1,500 donkaments or whether to instead hit more of the smaller Caesar's/Venetian deep stack events. I guess I'll just see what happens once I get out there. I'm going a bit early and should have a solid 3-4 days to splash around before the work portion of the trip kicks into high gear with the Main Event.

As far as the online pokers, I think I managed to burn myself out a bit. Results are still pretty decent, but I'm falling into the same pattern as last month, with very nice results for the first 20 days or so of the month and then a crash-and-burn day torpedoing things, followed by pressing too hard to get things rolling again, yada yada yada. I've been mixing in some $1/2 tables and some 6 max tables, trying to mitigate the monotonous grind of pretty ABC $100NL full ring play, but with mixed results so far. I'll probably shut down the online play soon
for the month, and with rakeback I'm liking at about a +$2,000 month. Which is nice, indeed, but I've been playing a ton, so the hourly rate is in the neighborhood of $15/hour. Which is kind of grindy, and points to me needing to work harder on my game, as I definitely should be showing a better profit than that.

I feel a bit wheel-spinny at the moment as the online bankroll is healthier than its been in many moons, and I could comfortably sit in $2/4 games. Until I can consistently beat the crap out of .50/$1 games, though, it seems pretty foolish to play any higher, especially given my propensity for blow-up days (and the resulting fallout) that I can't seem to completely work out of my monkey system.

It's nice to grind up the bankroll a bit, don't get me wrong, but in the end it all comes down to opportunity cost, as far as whether I could be making more money doing any number of other things, or, heaven forbid, doing something fun for the sole sake of having fun. Although the recent purchase of an Xbox360 and GTA4 and Guitar Hero have definitely helped out with that last quandry.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Find the Best PokerStars Marketing Code

If you're looking for the Best PokerStars Marketing Code, an obvious place to start would be The site offers exactly what it promises, which is a PokerStars Promo Code that gives new players the following:

* $50 bonus on your first deposit (100% match up to $50)

For Spanish speakers, check out Pokerstars Codigo.
Promo codes and marketing codes can be pretty helpful to new players as they learn the ropes, as the extra bonus money can definitely keep your head above water as you work on various aspects of your poker game.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lots and Lots of Poker

Congrats to all of the BBT winners below, courtesy of Al:

TuscaloosaJohn - Player of the Month for March - $2k WSoP Package
SirFWALGMan - Player of the Month for April - $2k WSoP Package
TuscaloosaJohn - Player of the Month for May - $2k WSoP Package
OMSitsPokerFool - Tournament of Champions - Main Event Seat Package
Loretta8 - Tournament of Champions - Main Event Seat Package
katiemother - Tournament of Champions - $2k WSoP Package
oossuuu754 - Tournament of Champions - $2k WSoP Package
lightning36 - BBT Freeroll - $2k WSoP Package

And a huge thanks to Al for not only being instrumental in putting all this together but keeping it lurching along, providing updated leaderboards, and all the other crippety crap that goes into such an endeavor.

Played a ton of poker of late, with nice steady gains on the cash side of things and some near misses on the tourney side. Made the final table of the BBT Freeroll but was short-stacked and shoved with pocket fours, only to run into aces. The uglier one was the weekly freeroll on Full Tilt for their Main Event Race promotion, which pays out $10,000 packages to the top 3 finishers. You can play your way in via the prelim freerolls or if you pick up 3,000 FTP points in a week you get a ticket that lets you enter the final directly. Not terrible odds, as the finals last week got about 450 entries, so it's not a complete crapshoot as far as trying to wade your way through a freeroll with 5000+ entries.

I hung around for the first few hours then went on a pretty big heater with about 100 people left and was top ten in chips. Lost a huge pot with AA vs. AKo (K K 4 flop, and a K on the river just to rub it in) that would have given me a big chip lead, then lost another huge pot with 1010 on a 10 J 5 flop, when someone with 87o decided that was a great spot to call off all their chips.

But I managed to double up with a pretty steamy shove with 55, then chipped back up and was average stack with 17 players left, and still very much in the thick of things. Until I decided that I could shove someone off a flop of Qc 8c 8h when they led out weakly into a decent pot, coming over the top with my pocket sixes. Not goot timing at all for a move like that when someone is holding pocket queens. Not goot at all.

Pretty bad and annoying, for all the obvious reasons. Just didn't need to do that, by any stretch of the imagination, especially when sitting in decent shape with a 1 in 6 shot at a Main Event seat.

Still plugging away at the $100NL grind, which continues to be pretty profitable if not insanely exciting. I'm still struggling a bit with stacking off with overpairs (which I guess anyone at any level can likely say with 100% accuracy) but have slowly been beating the lesson into my head that at the lower levels, more often than not people are representing exactly what they have.

Yeah, sure, I can talk myself into a shove with KK on a 10s 8s 5h flop when my continuation bet is met with a pot committing re-raise from an oppponent who just smooth called pre-flop, but more often than not villain has a set. Sure, he could be on a flush draw, sure he could have jacks or queens, sure, he could be an aggro push monkey and have AK, but more often than not he's got exactly what he's representing, which is a set.

Very elementary, I know, but it's part of the larger reason why I'm still grinding away at $100NL, which is trying to be more patient at the tables. Strip away everything else and the real reason that more people aren't winning players is simply the lack of patience more than the ability to calculate implied odds or reading hands. Grinding out a ton of hands is reinforcing that, as my losing sessions are almost always when I'm my own worst enemy, losing a few buy-ins early to coolers or draws that don't get there and then pressing too hard trying to get it back, pushing thin edges (or non-existent edges) trying to get unstuck. I haven't quite yet beaten all of that out of my system, thus the continued toiling at $100NL.

Other than poker, not a whole heck of a lot going on. We closed on the last flip house I bought on May 30th, but are waiting for the state of Texas to get off its ass as far as officially wrapping it up, as they keep delaying paying the title company the relocation money owed to the buyers of the house, whose old property was seized by the state to build a toll road. Very frustrating as the state keeps promising that the money will show up tomorrow at noon, tomorrow comes, no money, they swear it'll be there the next day, no money, yada yada yada. Not really concerned about the money showing up, sometime, as it's virtually guaranteed, but the delays are pretty damn annoying as I'm so ready to be completely done with that project and get my hands back on all the money invested in it plus the extra greedy monkey profits.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

You Picked the Wrong Time for That, Slick...

Pauly's latest post mentioning Eskimo Clark and Terrence Chan's Event #5 tale of asshatery at the tables jogged a few of my remaining brain cells as far as stuff I meant to blog about from my last trip out to Vegas for the WPT Championships but never got around to.

Those are obviously different tales with their own lessons, but both revolve around the ability of poker to bring out the absolute worst in people. Great game, love it tons, but man, hang around a tournament room or cash game tables for a few days and it's hard to not leave a slight bit saddened at the behavior of your fellow primates at the tables, whether it be from angles shot, general douchebaggery, or the general toll the gambling jones takes on many folks.

My last foray to Vegas was no exception, but it was sort of funny for once to see people immediately get back some of the negative mojo they were shooting out into the cosmos. I always like to believe that shiity behavior comes back to perpetrators in spades, and maybe it does in the long run, but you usually don't get to witness it quite so directly.

Karma is a Bitch: Exhibit A

Deep stack tournament at the Venetian, probably 5 or 6 hours in. Two younger WPT fanboi guys got moved to my table to the 7 and 8 seats (I was right next to them in the 9 seat), and I'm 95% sure they already knew one another, or else had played at the same table for awhile as they were talking as they came over and continued to quietly talk after they sat down.

It was a little annoying as they were discussing their takes on what people were holding as the hand was live, but they were doing it pretty quietly. Sitting next to them, I could hear them, as could the 6 seat, but I doubt anyone else at the table could actually hear what they were saying. Stuff like "There's no way he's got an A, he'd have raised pre-flop", "He's full of shit," etc. Kind of out of line but they were trying to impress one another with their mad hand reading skillz more than anything else.

So that went on for maybe 15 minutes or so before an older guy at the table finally piped up and complained, something along the lines of "You guys have been talking since you sat down, cut that shit out" and a couple of people at the other end of the table voiced their agreement. And of course the two culprits fall all over themselves reassuring him that they weren't even talking about poker or hands, they were talking about the NBA playoff game, yada yada yada, bullshit bullshit bullshit.

One of the fanbois, though, obviously didn't appreciate the old dude calling him out. It didn't help that the old dude was on a monster heater and had been hitting everything and building up a huge stack. The next hand was disgruntled fanboi's big blind, and the old guy raised it up from early position for what seemed like the 2 millionth time in the last few orbits. Disgruntled fanboi mutters "Watch me run a stop and go on his fucking ass" as the old guy is putting his raise out there.

Everyone folds, disgruntled fanboi calls, and the flop comes K K 8. Disgruntled fanboi insta-shoves, overbetting the pot by about 5x. The old guy sits there for a few seconds, bemused, and finally says "You picked the wrong time for that, slick. I call" and tabled KK for quads.

Karma is a Bitch: Exhibit B

We were close to a break at a $300 tournament at Caesar's and my table had just broken. Backing up a bit, we were five or six hours into the tournament and getting reasonably close to the money bubble, which was an hour or two away. I'd had a pretty big stack the whole way but just lose to monster pots with AA versus A7s and QQ versus 1010, so I was about average stack and a little bit pissed.

An hour or so earlier there'd been a big brouhaha at the table behind us. I have no idea what really went down, but a guy made a huge scene, yelling and screaming and berating the dealer. He claimed that because the dealer screwed up a dead blind situation, he'd paid a blind twice, that it happened when he was in the bathroom but he'd counted his chips and knew exactly what he had, and that he'd wrongly paid a blind twice.

Again, I have no idea what happened as it wasn't my table, and from the way the floor and dealer were reacting, I think he was actually probably right, as they were apologetic but basically telling him it wasn't fixable at that point, as he was away from the table when it went down and too much action had occured, as it was a few hands later when he returned and freaked out. Assuming he was right, yeah, he has a legitimate beef, but he was way over the top, and was absolutely unloading on the dealer, saying she should be fired for that, she was incompetent, she didn't deserve to be allowed to breathe, etc. He also wasn't desperately short-stacked nor were the blinds that huge, so whatever happened didn't substantially alter his chances. Plus he was the one who decided to take a stroll and blind off anyway.

So he finally shut up after about 15 more minutes of grousing and everything went smoothly after that for an hour or so. My table breaks, I get my new seat card, rack up my chips, and stand up and check my cell phone. I'd swapped 25% with a friend and he'd texted me a few times to see where I was at, as he'd busted early and taken off.

I'm reading his texts and all of a sudden someone is standing next to me, way too close, and they snatch the seat card out of my hand. I look up and it's Freakout Guy, who's now yelling at the dealer to call for the floor, and that I'm intentionally stalling to try to avoid playing my big blind. Then he walks my seat card about ten feet to the new table, smacks it down at my spot, and he swaggers back to his chair.

I was honestly more perplexed than anything, as literally ten seconds had elapsed from me racking up to checking my cell phone, and a few other people at my old table still hadn't even racked up yet. The dealer is just waiting, looking at me with a weary expression on her face, and I'm like "I'm just checking my phone" and she says "I know." So I sit down, pay my blind, and everyone else is shaking their heads and chuckling.

Freakout Dude is sitting three to my left and giving me the stink eye for the next few hands. The floor announces that its the last hand before a break, and Freakout Dude is in the BB. Folds around to me and I have 88. I briefly considered just folding and taking a stroll during the break, as I was a bit below average stack now and still a bit steamy from the two big pots I'd lost plus Freakout Dude's behavior.

But folding seemed way too weak so I bumped it up 4x BB, and it folded around to Freakout Dude, and of course he insta-shoved. To be honest, his shove really was too much for me to call, as it was more than half my stack to call and I'd only been at the table for a few hands and had no real idea what his range was. If I called and lost I'd be rocking a pretty short stack. It was really close, as far as calling, but not quite there.

In the end, though, the "Screw it, I call" line of thinking won out. And I have to admit that part of me was thinking, "Come on poker karma, I can't pretend that I entirely believe in your existence but, you know, one time." So I finally called and was fairly happy to see him turn over AJs. Not so happy when a J was the door card on the flop, but it came with a 9 and a 10, so I was open-ended and hit my straight on the turn when a 7 peeled off.

Which obviously didn't please Freakout Dude much, but he surprisingly packed his stuff up and left quickly without too many words. I guess it would have been a funnier story if I'd picked up a huge hand in the big blind to bust him when he ensured that I was there for a big blind, but I'll take any sort of poker karma that I can get.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Holdem Manager 1, PokerTracker3 0

It pains me to say it, but I finally had to give up on PokerTracker 3. Take what follows with a grain of salt, as many people love PT3 and have had no issues whatsoever, but I had serious problems with it from Day 1, and finally jumped ship to Holdem Manager when there seemed to be no real resolution on the horizon.

Just my two cents, but PT3 felt like it was released far too early, as the forums show many folks experiencing the same issues that I did, which were the HUD flat out not working and eating resources to the point that my entire system would essentially freeze up. You're going to have some minor bugs and tweaks with any major new release but that's a pretty fundamental issue, and it's one that impacted many people playing on a variety of systems on a variety of sites. When a beta/patch was finally released to address assorted issues, it actually created more problems for me than it solved, as the HUD was still not functioning correctly and the entire PT3 program started randomly crashing every 12-20 minutes.

I was a big fan of PT2 and loved the support and quick action on any issues that cropped up, but that definitely wasn't my experience with my PT3 issues. Two of my support tickets have been unanswered for weeks and they're still actively selling licenses for a product that is non-functional for some users. I'm completely guessing here, (and too lazy to do any investigative legwork) but it feels like someone bought the original product from the creator at some point in the recent past and is a bit over their heads in general, releasing it too early and unable to quickly address some of the major issues cropping up.

But, like I said, your mileage may very. Lots of folks are tickled with PT3 and it's working flawlessly for them. I unfortunately wasn't one of them. If you're on the fence, it might be better to wait a few months before moving over to PT3, as I imagine they'll get many of the kinks eventually worked out that some users are currently experiencing with the product as it now stands.

As far as Holdem Manager, I'm more than pleased so far. It's not as slick and finished looking as PT3 but I've had no performance issues at all, it's got tons of stats and filters, graphing functions, integrated HUD, all that good stuff. Not the prettiest or slickest software but so far it's fast and it flat out works, which is all I'm really looking for.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Downswongs, the WSOP, and Yard Sales, Oh My!

The wife and I are in the thick of Operation De-Clutter and Downsize and had a big yard sale this last Saturday. Aside from raking in nearly $300 for a bunch of useless crap, there was the added fun of being reminded just how bat-shit crazy many people are. I need to find a way to invisibly view such things, hiding in some sort of camouflaged, air-conditioned duck blind, so that I get to enjoy all the crazy but never have to, you know, actually speak to anyone.

Overweight lady reeking of displeasure with the world: How much do you want for this vacuum cleaner?

Me: Three dollars.

OLRoDwtW: Does it work?

Me: I have no clue. Probably not. It hasn't been used in years. That's why it's three dollars.

OLRoDwtW: Will you take two dollars for it?

Me: Sold.

(OLRoDwtW returns 20 minutes later, full of rage, dragging the vacuum cleaner behind her like an orphan waif who had just unleashed a foul load into their Huggies.)

OLRoDwtW: This doesn't work.

Me: Huh.

OLRoDwtW: I want my two dollars back.

(Hands her two dollars)

OLRoDwtW: I can't believe you'd sell someone a vacuum cleaner that doesn't work.

Me: ...

I also particularly enjoyed the people who'd eyeball stuff on the free table, consider it from all angles, and then ask how much I wanted for it. When told it was free they'd immediately drop it as if it was literally crawling with monkey pox, jumping away and giving me the stink eye for obviously trying to shoot some angle by unloading free crap on them.

Finished the month of May with a little over $3,200 in profit + rakeback from my adventure into $100NL full ring poker. Observant readers will notice that not only is that number well shy of my goal of $5K but a good bit below where I was at last report. Yes, indeedy...

I was just about to post on how I'd managed to avoid any major downswings or monkey tilt episodes for the month, when BOOM, downswong. I managed to drop about $1,300 over two days when very, very little went right. Like most kicks to the bankroll junk, it started with a string of coolers, draws that didn't get there, and similar somewhat unavoidable things, then got pushed into Wafflesian territory when the truly riduclous started piling on.

You'd think holding As 8s on a flop of Ks 4s 10s would be a good thing, especially when the idiot monkey at your table came over the top of your standard $5 continuation bet and shoved his entire $200 stack into the middle, holding just 3d 3h (really, I swear). And it normally would be a good thing, except when the turn is the 10d and the river the 10c to give him a boat.

Or flopping a set of 10s on a 10 8 4 rainbow flop, and leading out with your monster only to have a similar monkey shove his entire stack into the middle with J2o, only to catch a 9 on the turn and a Q on the river for a straight.

Don't get me wrong, though, I played like ass at that point and brought most of the losses on myself. Suddenly unable to lay down big overpairs to squeaky tight players that obviously have a huge hand, calling off entire stacks with just naked ace flush draws, and similar feats of donkery.

Which was pretty ironic timing, as I was about to post about how playing a much higher volume of hands was helping to reduce any tilt or stupid play on my part when I was running slightly bad. If you're only playing 3,000 or 4,000 hands a month, it's very possible that you can run epicly bad and lose every time you sit down to play, junk kicked repeatedly, through no fault of your own.

When you get in 50,000 hands a month, a lot of the variance gets smoothed out, and it's much easier to stay focused and avoid dumb plays, as even when you drop 3 or 4 buy-ins to start off a session it's just a drop in the bucket and you know you can grind it back as long as you get the hands in at the tables.

Easy to say, hard to accomplish, which I found out there at the tail end of the month. Pretty disappointing, all in all, but I did get my head back on straight and June is starting out well. If you'd have told me I'd take down around $3,200 for the month when I started the experiment I'd have been very happy with that, so I can't gripe too much. Chalk it up to a lesson learned and try to avoid it next time. (And yes, I already knew the lesson; the only "new" info is that I'm still unable at times to follow my own advice as far as not chasing losses, not playing pissed off, yada yada yada.)

The early WSOP reporting has definitely got me jonesing to be about their, as it sounds like Caesar's is running a pretty tight ship this year. I'm flying out June 28th to meet up with some of the PokerRoom staff before their players descend, so I should have a few days to gamble it up before getting to the grind of covering the Main Event for the PokerRoom blog.

Getting a press pass has been an absolute nightmare this year, as the firm Caesar's hired to handle the media application/approval process seem intent on making the process as painful and difficult as possible. I've bitched about this before but the attitude of nearly all the poker-powers-that-be to the media has to be one of the sickest ironies of the sports/entertainment world, as never have I seen any organization(s) consistently make it so hard for them to be given free, valuable publicity, time and time again.

Flying back on July 16th, so I imagine I'll be more than sick of Vegas by then, but for the moment I'm really looking forward to it. I'll likely be somewhat busier this year as PokerRoom is sending a ton more players this time, but they're also sending more bloggers to spread the workload around, so hopefully it'll be a wash. One cool part about my gig with them is that I do end up hanging out with players on all the trips throughout the year, and a lot of those players have managed to qualify for the WSOP, so it'll be cool to see them again at the Main Event.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I Can Has $5K Month (With Rakeback) Playing $100NL?

I'm a bit close to overdosing on teh poker after taking advantage of the long weekend to grind out a ridiculous number of hands in a mad push to get to 50K hands, so I thought I'd shut it down for a bit, as I'm just a bit over 45K hands at the moment and pretty happy with where things are at.

Here are the stats so far from my binge of playing $100NL this month, 4-6 tabling (more heavily with the 6 tabling from hands 20K-40K), which honestly are pretty surprising to me in all sorts of ways:

Total hands: 45,610
Amount won: $3,972
Rakeback: $713
PTBB/100: 4.36
$/hr.: $25.57

I've played full ring tables the whole month, with stats of 15/11/2.5 as far as VPIP/PFR/AF.

I've run slightly on the good side, but not crazily so, and PokerEV was pretty much a wash (when I was still using PT2, as I can't get it to work with PT3.)

Stepping back a bit and poking around on some random threads on 2+2, the interesting thing (to me at least) is that there's not much remarkable in the above numbers. If you're willing to park your ass in a chair and can grind out hands playing pretty straightforward ABC poker, you can make pretty decent money.

Hmm. Interesting.

Obviously this is something I knew, but I think I underestimated just how straightforward you could play at small stakes NL games and still make a decent amount of money. I definitely trend towards the nittier side, as evidenced in the above stats, and I'll sometimes put in 2,000-3,000 hands in a day and never attempt a single three barrel bluff, and can usually count the total number of two barrel bluffs without using my toes.

Despite that (or maybe because of it), it's proving fairly easy to extract a sum of money from the games that makes me pretty happy when everything is said and done. With close to zero stress, too, as the sums involved are more than manageable at the $100NL level.

Lest I sound like everything has been rosy and a steady upward graph, there were some pretty ugly chunks in that 45,000 hand sample. I had a break-even stretch of about 8K hands (down 7 buy-ins in about 2K hands to start off that stretch), and also managed to lose 5 buy-ins in 5 minutes at one point.

It's not exactly exciting poker at the $100NL level, and I can already find myself slipping into a pretty predictable default mode of play that'd get eaten alive at $400NL and upward, but money is money is money. The weird thing is that I'm still fairly jazzed about playing and grinding out hands, as I've been able to keep my head in the place where I can equate x number of hands with y profit, so it's just a matter of getting in the hands, making more correct clicks with the mouse than incorrect clicks, and letting the results follow.

So yeah, long story short, yay poker so far in this grinding out many hands experiment. Not really sure what the plan is after the 50K mark, as I'd honestly be fairly happy for now if I could churn out similar results on a regular basis at $100NL, as far as $4K-$5K months. The tentative plan is to put in another 50K or so hands and try stepping up the tables to 8-10 at a time, then bumping up to $200NL. Based on some of the 2+2 SSNL regular threads, there are more than a few people making very nice livings from just grinding 10-12 tables of $200NL, and I can think of many worse ways to make filthy lucre.

Planning on getting some more posts up shortly as far as adjustments I've made this time around and some other more nuts and bolts things.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dirty Sanchez Tacos: More Than Just Lip Service

While you're enjoying Memorial Day Eve, here's a little reminder of exactly the sorts of freedoms that are worth fighting for, such as your Jebus-given right to start your very own taco truck business:

That's 100% real, with said truck sitting in parking lot at a storage facility here in Austin where a friend snapped that pic with his cell phone. For realz.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

PokerTracker 3 and Recommended NL Reading

First, a request, and then my thoughts on PokerTracker 3, which I've had up and running for a few days.

(Two posts in one day! Both about poker! Brimstone falling from the sky!)

I've been way, way out of the loop as far as keeping up on poker books of late, especially the rash of books focusing on NL cash games. I know there's a bunch of them out there now and various opinions as to the relative worth. If people could chime in with their thoughts on what to buy and what to avoid, I'd greatly appreciate it.

As far as PT3, I'm kind of surprised to find myself reporting that after 4 days or so of running it, I'm a little disappointed. I've never used Hold'em Manager so I can't compare and contrast the two, but PT3 has been a bit of a letdown.

On the bright side, you get more data points to work with, including 3 betting/4 betting stats and some more very usueful statistics that you can include in your HUD. The PokerAce HUD is now built into PT3, which is definitely an improvement and removes one layer of complexity as far as getting real-time HUD data when you play.

PT3 also has some nice new bells and whistles such as the ability to graph your results, more easily track results on various sites, and (to my eyes at least) an overall look that is much cleaner, easier to use, and sophisticated looking. It looks more like a professional software application and less like a cool utilitarian tool some poker player came up with to help them make more money at the tables.

My biggest issue is that it seems to eat a ton of resources when I'm trying to play 4-6 tables with the HUD on, to the point of everything freezing and causing me to time out occasionally (usually when I try to add a fourth, fifth, or sixth table). Based on assorted topics in the support forum, this seems to be a common issue, as there are many HUD related bugs and issues still unresolved at the moment. Which would make sense, as this is the first release that tries to integrate the two into one product, but so far its been painful to the point of frustration for me, leaving me longing at times for the days of yore when each product ran smoothly enough on its own.

On a related note, I'm running into the same resource issue when I'm datamining tables and auto-importing observed hands. Since I'm not playing there are no playability issues, but datamining 16 FT tables renders my computer otherwise useless as far as the resources that are gobbled (and we're talking a dekstop that's about 1 year old and not a complete PC dinosaur), something that never happened to me with PT2, when I could datamine to my heart's content and still work normally on my desktop as far as using other various applications. Not so much with PT3, even after turning off the HUD and fiddling with assorted settings that I can find. Datamining observed hands is still possible and works fine, I just can't do anything else on my desktop while datamining.

Not huge issues, really, as far as my gripes, and hopefully something that can be cleaned up in future releases. My overall feeling of slight disappointment is also likely a bit due to the levels I'm playing, as I can definitely see how the addition of some of the stats (especially 3 and 4 bet percentages, 3 and 4 bet call percentages, etc.) could be very, very valuable, to the point that you could overlook other issues. At the stakes I'm playing the additional stats just aren't that useful or indicative of much, but for higher stakes those could be huge.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been...

It's a little bit disturbing that grinding out a ginormous number of hands at .50/1 NL has somehow gotten me excited about poker again but hey, there you go...

The human mind is an interesting thing. Especially in regards to its ability to complete all sorts of mental gymnastics and hocus pocus to convince you something is true despite all evidence to the contrary. And you believe it, because its your brain, and cause and effect get lost in a jumbled tangle until all you've got is this thing you believe is true, because you told yourself it was true enough times.

Playing poker of late definitely takes me back to the days of yore (or, you know, late 2004) when I was very much afflicted by the poker bug, wide-eyed and eager to come home after work every day and fire up a bunch of micro-limit LHE tables. Exciting, heady times, trying to build up my wee little bankroll, reading any and everything I could get my hands on, reading poker blogs and forums, you name it. Very excited about poker. Very focused. Very much enamored by the idea that I'd happened upon a readily exploitable system that could produce steady, increasing profits.

If you haven't guessed it by now, money is a good motivator for me. I could lie and say its not the chief motivator in my life, but, well, you know... The lure of money plus a competitive nature (and a genuine love of playing cards) made poker pretty much the perfect receptacle to pour all sorts of energy and thought into. I was definitely playing with an eye on net profits but much of the enjoyment came from exploiting the system, learning the steps necessary to slowly and steadily grind down the opposition and, in the long run, beat the hell out of their ass and bankroll. That's what really got me off, in the end, more than the dollar signs.

I worked my way up through the limits, played lots of poker, made money, and all was seemingly well. Eventually I was playing 15/30 and 20/40 full ring LHE on Party (insert obligatory wistful teary eye), booking fairly steady profits but not really crushing the games. I had plenty of cash floating around online due to affiliate cash I was raking in so there was really no finacial pressure on me to improve poker-wise. There also was a ton of fishy dead money up for grabs back in the day that inflated my results and others, taking players who'd probably be marginally profitable/break even these days and turning them into pretty decent winners back in the days of yore.

Long story short, I got fat and lazy, poker-wise. I started taking stupid shots, playing 50/100 and 10/20 NL, largely as a defense mechanism to the games getting tougher and to compensate for my own laziness. I started propping, playing 6 max games because that's where the cool kids were making all the money, jumping into big buy-in MTTs looking for big scores, chasing anything that seemed to offer a potential big payoff. I stopped grinding and trying to improve because, well, that's not much fun, and let my brain convince me that I didn't want to be that guy who was obsessed with poker, that I'd already put in my time and had to have the tools necessary to play profitably.

Since I wasn't enjoying the game as much, there must be a reason (and surely that reason must be un-related to me) so hey, let's find some reasons. Plenty of mouth-breathers are steadily crushing the online games for huge profits when I'm treading water, so there's got to be a reason. Being married with assorted financial obligations is what's holding me back. That's the ticket. Having a life and being a well-rounded, active primate is holding me back from obsessively trying to improve. Yup. Poker is just a hobby for me, so who cares, have fun. Exactly.

So for quite awhile (years, even), I managed to not only trick myself into not connecting the dots, but blinded myself to the dots themselves. What I really enjoyed about poker wasn't so much the desired net result (more mobneys in my bankroll) but the process itself, when you're working hard and grinding out profits. Using my smarts (limited as they may be at times) to consistently profit from the mistakes of others, over and over and over. And it's taken some serious grinding at the .50/1 tables to remind me of all that, of what I really enjoyed, as silly as that sounds.

I'm actually enjoying working my way through Cardrunners videos, to the point that I almost hesitate to play, even at .50/1, as I feel like I learn something each day/week that adds an incremental amount of +EV to my chips. I actually enjoy datamining the hell out of the tables, enjoy being able to sit down with a wealth of stats and information made possible by tricknology and my willingness/ability to incorporate it into my play. I love the fact that poker allows you to both vicariously and directly enjoy idiots acting like idiots, right in front of you, time after time after time, if you have the right tools and skills to recognize it.

I can't say stakes are unimportant, as I'm not sure I could muster the same enthusiasm at the .02/.04 tables, but I've been surprised at my patience so far. I want to get 50,000 hands in at .50/1 and see where I'm at, and I've got about 15,000 more to go. My bankroll was fairly healthy before I began this whole project, plus I had some decent scores the last week in FTOPS satellites (all of which I unregistered from and took the cash), so I could sit $2/4 if you subscribe to the old timey notion that 20 buy-ins are a sufficent roll, but for once in my poker life I'm not feeling the pressure to push the envelope.

Beating up on players at the .50/1 tables isn't exactly something to brag about, and I'm the first to admit that, so it's with more than a little hesitation that I hit the "Publish Post" button on this. The ego cringes a bit to babble endlessly about the joy of getting home and cranking up some .50/1 tables, but that's exactly where I find myself these days, for better or for worse. An odd place, granted, and a pretty strange circular journey, but not the worst place to be all things considered.