Monday, October 31, 2005


I’ve had some recent success lately, but rather than give details and risk jinxing it and incurring the wrath of the poker gods, I’ll just reflect on some thoughts I’ve had during the last few months.

Poker can be so very counterintuitive.  We’ve all read and come to understand how the luck factor is what brings the fish back to the table.  Without it, the poker world would be like the chess world – dominated by the grand masters and relegating those recreational part-time players into also-rans with no chance at ever competing on the biggest of stages.

But it’s also that luck factor that confuses, at least on occasion, the very best of poker players.  It is extremely difficult to discern bad play from bad luck.  It takes a willingness to admit to yourself that the negative results you’ve seen have come simply from bad play.  But it takes a whole helluva lot more to realize that you’ve been playing well and have just been on the bad side of variance.

Poker humbles me.  I’m very reluctant to admit to having any skill at the game.  It’s because I know how the game can turn on you, frustrate you, and make you question your own confidence.  It’s almost like I’m constantly looking back over my shoulder, waiting for the light tap of variance to bring my confidence back down a couple of notches.

It’s been said countless times before, but losing at poker has taught me the most about myself and my play.  In the months of May through July, I had an awful time winning.  No matter what I did, I lost.  I changed games, I changed sites, I even changed underwear.  It didn’t help.  But I did succeed at one thing.  I finally accepted it.

The three-month losing streak was just a part of the game.  My main game of short-handed NL ring games probably has the highest variation associated with it than any other form of poker, tournaments notwithstanding.  It’s tough to wrap your mind around how big variance can be, but once you do, you realize that part of the normal fluctuations of poker involves long losing streaks.

You can choose to let it break you and put you on tilt, or you can accept it and move on.  It’s quite a challenge to accept it and feel confident that playing your game will reap its just rewards over time.  It is very hard indeed.  But once you do, you won’t let losing get in your way.  Especially when you’re in the midst of a long winning period you must ACCEPT losing and avoid EXPECTING to win.

Making changes to your game such that it becomes easier for you to accept losing is very important.  Simple things like playing within your bankroll come to mind.  Maintaining detailed records of your play and results can help too.  Whatever it takes to accept and understand why you lose can only help in the long run.

And I know we’re all here for the long haul.    

Saturday, October 29, 2005

One Upping the Princess

"Dems quad bitches" is a great line.

But I like "Dats a straight flush donkeys" too.

I got paid off. Some, not a lot.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Vegas - Day Two

A couple of old-style Stacker 2’s and several vodka and Sobe’s is a recipe for zero sleep.  I was exhausted, but I think I woke up every 7 or 8 minutes after returning to the Palms.  Finally, at 9:00AM after eighty-four aborted attempts to sleep more than 30 minutes at a time, I showered and went down to the buffet.  I had a $1 coupon and ate a massive breakfast for about $6.  Others have mentioned that The Palms’ buffet isn’t so hot, but to me, it was more than adequate.

I had plenty of time to get to the Aladdin poker room, so I decided to walk.  The early morning Vegas weather was probably close to 65F and sunny – perfect weather to walk down Flamingo Blvd. towards the strip.  It took probably 40 minutes to get to the Aladdin; and when I finally arrived, I immediately sat down at the softest $1/$2 NL table to grace the face of the planet.

In June of this year, after I busted out of the Aladdin Classic, I was just a bit nervous sitting down at the $1/$2 game.  I did well, but it took some getting used to.  This time however, after 6 more months of higher stakes online and the previous day’s stint at the Palms’ $2/$5 game, it felt like I was sitting at a nickel and dime table.

I was calm, relaxed, and playing with 9 of the most amazing calling stations you’ll ever find.  One guy simply check-called his way through his entire buy-in.  Another guy reached for his wallet mid-way through a hand for more cash not realizing the rules about table stakes.  It was with a little sadness that I left the table to register for the noon tourney with Grubby.  After all, these ring games have been my bread and butter for the past year while tournaments have been the bane of my bankroll.

The tournament was a rollercoaster ride for me.  I had to take the re-buy when my pocket A’s were cracked by KQ when my opponent flopped two-pair.  I took the re-buy chips into the chip lead after busting three people, then managed to call off half my stack on a mis-read.  I exited not soon after coming over the top of one aggressive guy who finally had a hand.  Aces.  I lost my $20 last-longer bet with Grubby and went back to the ring games.

Unfortunately, the NL tables were full, and being the poker junkie I am, had to slum along at a $3/$6 limit table.  Ugh, limit poker.  Oddly, I stayed at that table from about 2pm until 1am.  I booked a small win, but the table was hugely +EV for entertainment value alone.  It was “one of those tables.”  Everyone was having a blast.  Especially when I taught everyone what a dial-a-shot was.

AlCantHang actually called me first thinking I was at my regular donk-fest Thursday night dealer’s choice game.  Then, the unthinkable happened.  The waitress told me that they were out of Southern Comfort.  Luckily Al wasn’t there or there’d have been hell to pay.  About 30 minutes later, the waitress did find some and brought me a shot.  I called G-Rob and the G-Vegas regulars partook in a cross-country dial-a-shot.  My table was a bit on the lame side; nobody would drink with me.  One guy’s wife who was watching him play stepped up to the plate since the guy claimed he didn’t drink.

Grubby finally got a seat after finishing ITM and joined me for some Vegas hold ‘em.  As mentioned on his site, Vegas hold ‘em is a variation on Texas hold ‘em.  It’s generally only played once it’s heads up, and it involves each player getting to flip over an opponent’s hole card of their choosing.  The dealers at the Aladdin were fine with this and we added some for spice to an already fun game.

Grubby had to run a few errands and pick up some free goodies elsewhere, and once he left, the fun-factor died down a bit.  Eventually he came back, but had to join the NL tables – which is where I should have gone but didn’t.  Sadly, 1 AM came faster than anticipated, and with my morning flight to San Jose the next day, I had to make my exit.


My Vegas trip was a success in every respect.  I played poker, drank with some good friends, and made it out alive with my bankroll intact.  Let me send a special thanks to Pauly and Grubby for being my hosts for a couple of days.  Perhaps it’s a good thing that I’m married with kids, because the Vegas life is so compelling and intense that I’m not sure how long I could last out there.  And if I were single and without kids, I’m pretty sure I’d be giving it a try.  December is calling…

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Fun and Games

After cashing out of the $2/$5 game, I took a very short cab ride from The Palms to The Bellagio to meet up with the great Dr. Pauly.  He was busy covering the WPT event there, but said he would have some free time tonight to donk around with yours truly.  It was still relatively early, so if Pauly couldn’t escape his coverage obligations, I would have been content to play some more poker at the Bellagio poker room.

Pauly met me outside the poker room and got me inside the Fontana Room where they were holding the WPT event.  It was still day 2 and there were about 60-70 players left.  Pauly pointed out all the pros to me and introduced me to BJ from CardPlayer and to Curtis from SpecialKsPlace.  We excused ourselves for a bit and developed a plan of action outside while watching the fountains erupt.  Sadly, this was the first time I’d seen them in action.  Obviously, I’m not the ideal Vegas tourist.

Our itinerary came together rather quickly.  We would meet Grubby over at the Excalibur poker room and play some $2/$6 spread limit, get appropriately lubricated, then hit up some of Vegas’ finer adult entertainment establishments.  General Patton could not have come up with a better battle plan.

I’ve played at the Ex three times now.  I’ve NEVER come up a winner at the $2/$6 game.  I’ve never even been dealt AA there, hoping to get it cracked so I can spin the wheel.  Grubby did bring up an excellent point on playing AA at these tables, however.  Don’t raise.  Limp.  You WANT them cracked.  They are worth more cracked since you get double value for your wheel spins.  The minimum you can win is $40 and the max is $600.  Screw the pot, take the spin.

I believe I won more at the game on prop bets, picking the correct color of the wheel spins two times in a row.  Ha!  Take that Pauly and Grubby.

Once the three of us had our fill of the donks and donking in general, we were off to Sin.  It was a Wednesday night, and apparently Sin is not the best that Vegas has to offer.  But big deal, I was about to see nekkid boobies for the first time out of my three trips to Vegas.  That shit’s important.  Pauly drove, so we got in for free.  Bonus.  I bought the first round of drinks; but when I realized that the $20 bill I pulled from my wad wasn’t enough to cover it, I was glad I drank a plenty at the Ex.

I couldn’t help compare the talent level to some of the places that G-Vegas has to offer.  Not to sound all snooty, but G-Vegas clubs have more talent.  But that was OK, I was having a rollicking good time with my Vegas hosts, even if drinks were $10 a pop.

We did a bunch of BS’ing with the local talent.  I told one local that Grubby was a former Mr. Southern Xiang-quan-do champion bodybuilder who retired because he was tired of all the posing.  My cover story was that I was a hot-air balloon pilot named Stone Cold Steve.  Yes, I was wearing my Austin jersey that April got me.

At about 4am, I was losing my steam.  I’d been up for over 24 straight hours since I was still on Eastern time.  I’d spent enough cash at Sin and figured there’d be more to do tomorrow.  I told Grubby we’d meet at Aladdin for the 12pm tourney and then we were out.  Pauly drove me back to the Palms and I made my way up to the room.  On the way up, the elevator stopped and two totally amazing chicks hopped in wearing very revealing pajamas.  Apparently, they were on their way to a pajama party.  I said nothing; I could only steal a glance here and there wondering what a 10-year younger me would have done in this situation.  Probably what my current self did, exit on my floor, walk to my room and fall fast asleep.

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Dish Best Served Cold

As I was riding the shuttle bus from the airport to The Palms, I wasn’t very excited.  This was my 3rd trip to Vegas, but this time, I was here by myself.  My anticipation level was low as there was no blogging contingent to meet up with, no planned activities like Storming the Castle, no massive drinking of 3 ft. margaritas – just me and Vegas and poker.

Sure, I’d get to meet up with Pauly and Grubby, and that was sure to be a blast, but I knew Pauly had tournament coverage obligations, so I thought I’d spend much of the time flying solo.  Which was fine, because I planned it that way.

I was really here on a mission.  I had something to prove to myself.  I was going to take back from Vegas more than just my confidence; I was here for a bit of revenge.

If any of you are comic book geeks, some of you may remember an obscure title called Ronin.  It was authored and illustrated by one of the industry’s finest – Frank Miller, he of the Dark Knight Returns fame.  In Ronin, the hero is a masterless samurai displaced thousands of years into Earth’s future.  His arms are robotic prostheses and he’s pretty damned good with a sword.  In one scene, he’s basically left for dead when a couple of street gang leaders beat the ever-lovin’ crap out of him.  That’s not unlike how I felt back in December during my first trip to Vegas.  Some of you may remember my experience at Mandalay Bay:

The first: I'm dealt A,Q in EP and raise the $4 blind to $17 and get 1 lone caller. The flop is A,7,4.  I get fancy and check the flop and the lone caller bets $25. I immediately check-raise it to $50 and the guy pauses. I know I'm good here. His reaction to my raise, his reluctance in calling, it's all there. I've got him nailed. The turn is a K and I put him all-in. More pausing, more hesitation. Finally he calls. We flip up our cards and he shows A,10. There is $320 in the pot. The river? Guess. My first bad beat is a 3-outer and it costs me huge. I wince, but I vow to keep on keepin' on. The other players at the table even complimented me on a hand well played. Big freakin' deal.Then comes the second: I'm dealt K,K in EP and raise the $4 blind to $17. See a pattern? Anyway, the SAME FUCKING GUY re-raises me to $30. Now, I'm certainly not psychic, but his re-raise seemed weak. Again, I knew he didn't have aces here. So, of course, I re-raise all-in. The guy has me covered with the $320 he won only 20 minutes earlier and quickly calls. We flip our cards, he has Q,Q. Can you say dominated? I didn't. However, the bastards at my table tell me "Don't worry, he'll catch his queen on the river." Honestly, I'm not making it up, this was said to my face before the flop even occurred. The flop was junk, the turn was a brick. The river? Guess. A 2-outer, and I'm busted.

I still remember those beats as if they happened yesterday and not over ten months ago.  I am supposed to get over that stuff if I ever want to move on.  And I have.  But forgiving and forgetting are two different things.

After checked-in, I made my way down to the casino floor at The Palms looking for their poker room.  After picking my jaw up off the floor at the sight of their cocktail waitresses, I managed to find the “high stakes” poker area.  “Hmm, probably not for me,” I thought.  Right next to it was the regular poker room, but alas they were only dealing $2/$4 and $4/$8 limit poker.  I inquired as to the availability of the no-limit tables and the cardroom manager directed me back to the “high stakes” room.  Ok then, here we go.

The game was $2/$5 blinds, $500 buy-in no limit poker.  I bought in for $300.  I know, I know.  But that’s what I did.  It happened to be the most cash I EVER bought in for in a poker game.  I don’t think that a $500 buy-in would have mattered much.  There were players with $1500 in front of them.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that on a Wednesday afternoon, the table was jammed with locals.  Real good locals.  In fact, my heart didn’t leave my throat until I’d played about three orbits.

Certainly, doubts crept into my mind about what I was doing.  But this was it, this was my personal test.  I came to Vegas for EXACTLY this reason.  I was either going to prove to myself that I had a chance to be a poker player, or I was going to leave knowing I wasn’t.


Things started off reasonably well.  I had KJ in late position and flopped middle pair.  When the flop and turn were checked, I easily called a $30 bet that was called once before me and took down a pot beating pocket 8’s and pocket T’s.  I was a bit passive at first, understanding that I was probably making these regulars salivate at the fresh meat at the table.  I’d get aggressive when the situation dictated it.

Aggression, meet pocket K’s.  I raised 6x the BB to $30 and got two callers in later position.  The flop was a semi-coordinated 79J with two diamonds.  I bet $50 into the pot and got the button to call.  All the while during this hand, I’m telling myself “Do not go broke here, do not go broke here.”  The turn was the Ace of diamonds, completing the flush draw and putting that dreaded overcard on the board.  I checked, the button checked.  The river was a blank and I checked again.  The button checked down his T8o for the flopped straight.  The flush draw saved me some cash and I salvaged a mini-victory – I did not go broke.

Sadly, pocket J’s were no good at this table either.  A King-high flop ensured that my $50 continuation bet was more money in the local’s pockets.  After a couple of hours, I was hovering around my initial buy-in, but getting more comfortable all the while.

Then it came.


All the while the Ronin is lying in his own blood, arms severed and barely conscious, he’s still focused.  In fact, he’s so focused that he’s able to use telekinesis to repair his arms and over time regains enough composure to walk back to the place of his beating and re-challenge his tormentors.  He’s learned from his previous battle and this time, he will not lose.


I’m on the button and I find AK of spades.  Two people limp and the button raises to $30.  I come along for the ride as do the two limpers.  I could have re-raised here, but I’m out of position and perhaps a smooth call will add some uncertainty to my holding.

The flop is K32.  Rainbow.  I check.

(“I get fancy and check the flop”)

Both limpers check and the pre-flop raiser comes out firing for $60.  I come out with a check raise and make it $160 to go.  Both limpers fold and the button pauses.

(”I immediately check-raise it to $50 and the guy pauses. I know I'm good here.”)

The button is a good player.  He’ has close to $2000 in front of him.  But he’s paused.  He’s at least thinking about my check-raise and what it means.  He’s paused and stacking chips.  First he makes one stack of the $100 required to call me.  Then he makes a second stack of $100 and looks at me.  I look back, calmly.  In my mind, if he re-raises, I’m pushing.  His pause told me everything I needed to know.  Finally, he simply calls.

The turn is a rag.

“I’m all in.”

(“The turn is a K and I put him all-in. More pausing, more hesitation. Finally he calls.”)  

But here the script goes astray and changes course.  He insta-calls.  Now I’m very confused and dare I say it, a little bit scared.  I’m pretty sure my testicles have crawled back into my body cavity.  At The Palms, cards are not turned over immediately, so at this point; I do not know what my opponent has.  The river is dealt and it’s a Jack.  Was that a good card for me?  A bad one?  With some bit of resignation in my voice, I flip over my AK and say “Kings, Ace-kicker.”

The button slowly flips one card.  It’s a King.

I don’t move, but I’m thinking to myself “Do not slow roll me, because if you do, I will hurt you.”


By the end of the encounter, the gang leaders who originally nearly destroyed the Ronin are no more.  But what of my Vegas demons?  Only the turn of one single card would determine my fortune.  Regardless of the outcome, I had my chance and I took it.  I played the hand the best I could and just like at Mandalay Bay, I shouldn’t put too much value in the results.


But I’m human, and the results do matter to me, perhaps more than they should.  I never got to see the button’s second card.  He mucked it.  I can only assume he had KQ and lost a kicker battle.  When the dealer made the pot right, I gathered an insane amount of $5 and $1 chips.

The final tally was $758.  Biggest. Pot. Ever.

And no small bit of redemption.


I left the poker room not soon after.  I had completed my own personal quest to redeem myself at the Vegas no limit poker tables.  Later in the weekend, I’d learn that the Wednesday afternoon game at the Palms is filled with local sharks and full time players who feast off the likes of me.  Part of me knows that this single session is no great indicator of my relative skill compared to them.  But part of me also knows that I went to battle with some of the best players I’d ever played with, stood toe to toe, and for at least one short while came out on top.

I can’t describe how good it felt.  I can’t tell you why I also felt it was something I had to do by myself.  It just was.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


I am back. I'll have a good-sized trip report soon. But I'm wiped. I got home on Sunday just in time to see my surrogate get busted from the Stars freeroll. To anyone who stopped to say "Hi," I apologize, it wasn't me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

What Makes a Great Blog?

PokerStars is announcing ANOTHER contest within a contest. For all registrants of PokerStars Blogger Championship, we are giving out a cool PokerStars Fleece for the following contest:In your own words (any length you think is appropriate), tell PokerStars what makes a good blog. If you have a poker blog or one that has this as a major topic, please add relevance to poker in your topic.

**** My Entry ****

What makes a good poker blog?  Certainly, there are many things.  Is it great writing?  Truly, there are some very talented writers out there with a flair for creating prose that brings you right into their thought processes.  Is it great content?  Again, there are some talented poker players out there whose results are envied across the blogosphere.  Granted, there are even some who represent a combination of both great writing and great content.  But still, there exists one required ingredient, which for me truly differentiates a blog from being merely a good one to one that is a great one.

A willingness to put your true thoughts and feelings online for the world to see.

When you read someone’s poker blog, often times you can really get a sense for who that person is in real life.  Prior to our first big get-together in Vegas back in December of 2004, few bloggers had ever met each other face-to-face.  When we finally all came together to meet, every one felt as though we had met before.  In effect, we had.

The great bloggers leave a piece of themselves in their writing.  That piece is there to be given to the readers to do with as they please.  When a blogger is honest and forthcoming in their writing, the readers pick up on it and latch to it in earnest.  It’s how friends are made.  Certainly, there is no requirement to do so when you create and maintain a blog.  But for those that do, for those that take that small risk and put a piece of themselves out in the wild for the world to consume, they are the bloggers that earn themselves the respect, the camaraderie and the friendship of so many others.

A great blog can only be created by a great blogger.


Off to Vegas tomorrow, I’ll be in touch.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Guilty: Results Oriented

Well, it’s official.  I’m results oriented.  Sure, I try not to be, but I am.

Case in point:  Sunday, October 16th.

Mid-afternoon, I sit down to what I think my forte is, a NL ring game on <begin shilling for freeroll> Pokerstars. </end shilling for freeroll>  I decided to move up to the $100 buy-ins for I had achieved my goal of reaching a $3k bankroll.  Then I was in a few hands where I knew things were just not going to go my way.

I call a modest raise with 9Tc and flop a flush.  Problem was, someone else flopped a higher flush.

I raise with pocket A’s and get re-raised by what turns out to be pocket J’s.  We both hit our sets and I should double up.  The final board reads AKQJT.  Split like a walnut.

I hit the stone cold dead nutty, nutty, nut nuts on the turn and get folds all around to a weak lead out.

Buy-in gone, positive attitude gone.  The kids are freakin’ RELENTLESS on me today and I’ve got the mood of one fine-tuned jerkoff of a daddy.

I take a break and watch the Patriots lose in Denver.  It’s not totally unexpected, but not much is these days.

Undeterred, I fire up a two-table $30+3 SNG.  You know how they pay top four, dontcha?  With 5 people remaining, I call an all-in and have my opponent Pantera-style Dominated.  Dom-in-A-shun!  The turn brings his 3-outer and I’m crippled to T560 with 100/200 blinds.  There is no joy in Bloodsville.

Two hands later, I’m dealt pocket Q’s and think I can double up.  I push, get one caller, and then someone else goes over-the-top on me.  Well, duh!  Of course, the guy had pocket K’s.

At this point, I laugh.  It’s a laugh of helplessness, but mainly I laughed because it was then I realized how results oriented I was.  I was letting these random poker hands sullen my mood.  Well, just for shitz’n’giggles, let’s see a flop.  Bah, no Q, but there is an 8 and a T.  Hey a 9 on the turn gives me more outs.  Well, will ya look at that.  A Jack on the river.  My laugh turns to giggles as I more than triple up.

Long story short:

PokerStars Tournament #13873729, No Limit Hold'em
Buy-In: $30.00/$3.00
18 players
Total Prize Pool: $540.00
Tournament started - 2005/10/16 - 16:27:28 (ET)

Dear badblood44,

You finished the tournament in 1st place.
A $216.00 award has been credited to your Real Money account.

Thank you for participating.

No, thank you Pokerstars, thank you.  The mini’s thank you too, because that small piece of code called the random number generator allowed me to enjoy the rest of the afternoon playing in the back yard with two of the best kids on this planet.  They deserve a better dad, one who’s not so caught up in stupid poker results.

More stuff to work on, it seems never ending.  Perhaps it’s not supposed to end, maybe it’s just supposed to be an interesting journey.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Escape Velocity

I’m sitting here this morning reading Pauly’s and Otis’ recap of their Pokerstars media event coverage on Tuesday night.  It’s not with a little bit of envy that I think about their profession of choice and the personal freedoms it brings.  Certainly, I know the old adage about the grass always being greener, but rarely has my life inside the cubicle been more mundane.  Not that I could be a writer, nor anything but the engineer I am for that matter; but I can’t help but wish away the 8 to 6 chain that encircles the majority of my waking hours and tightens with each passing day.

Is there an escape?  Not likely.  If the poker phenomenon had occurred ten or twelve years earlier in my life, perhaps I’d have taken some risks.  At the bare minimum, packing up and moving closer to the Mecca and becoming a dealer would have been one possibility.  Having a family to support however makes taking such chances more than foolhardy.  There’s always that miniscule chance that I’ll win the PowerBall lottery, but I’m more likely to be struck by lightning twice after being hit by a meteor.  Still, I play.

And I play poker too.  I’ll actually admit to the world (read:  tens of loyal readers) that there have been times that I thought I could eventually win enough money on a consistent basis to consider doing it full time.  Yeah, that’s right, I said it.  Or more like I typed it.  Anyone who has played and had some level of success has thought the same thing.  Maybe not for long, or not very seriously, but admit it – the thought of playing a game for a living has bounced around your brain at least once.

The sad part, for me at least, is that I’m stubborn, disciplined, and possess a general dislike for having to work with other people who aren’t very much like me.  Yes, my workplace has donkeys precisely like those at the poker table.  Unfortunately, just like the odds of hitting a 200 million dollar jackpot, my odds of becoming a “professional” are astronomical.  The only thing working in my favor is time.

Time and dedication.  Here is some more honesty for you.  I’ve been hitting the gym regularly for about 15 years now.  I’ve never taken any form of the juice, the cream or the clear.  In fact, I’m not really even that big considering how often I lift.  I’ve been at or near the same bodyweight for about 10 years.  Talk about a plateau.  So why do I still workout?  Because I’m stubborn.  As each year passes, it gets more and more difficult to even maintain what I’ve built.  Even if I’ve made any gains, they come about so slowly as to not even be noticeable.  But I continue to plod away, driven by some internal, misguided view of myself that eventually something better will come of it.  That’s either discipline or evidence that my skull is made of Neptunium, I’m not sure which.

Therein too lies my plan for poker.  Plod away.  Make gains that may not be noticeable, but when accumulated over a long enough time period, will indeed manifest themselves.  I had my best winning year last year.  Certainly to many, the sum was paltry, but it was more than I thought I could ever win.  Earlier this year, I was on pace to double last year’s win.  When that was happening, I just figured that doubling my profits each year was the ticket out.  In 5 years of doubling up, I’d be able to overtake my current salary and then the sky was the limit.

Well that didn’t happen.  I know; you’re all shocked, dismayed, chagrined even.  In the months of May through early August, I got crushed.  Doubling up seemed to be such a moronic idea.  Still, I remained profitable for the year, but I put aside that 5-year plan as a pipe dream and plodded on.  Perhaps slow and steady can win the race, but the race I was in was going to be some ultra-marathon.

So I continue to plod.

Back to where I began, here I sit pondering other things.  As soon as I figure out what they are, I’ll let you know.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Reading is Fundamental

Every now and then, I’ll post my thoughts on a particular hand I played during the past week.  Pretty much without fail, these discussions have made me look smarter than I really am.  In order to give equal time to both sides, I present to you a hand I played last week that sheds light on my ability to lose my entire stack all at once.

Where:  Full Tilt (thanks Hank for not removing the destroyBadBloodsBankroll boolean – do I need to get Bill and Chris involved here????), $50 NLHE, 6-handed ring game.

Why:  Because I stink.

The environment at the table has seen me raise with some premium hands and take down pots with post flop continuation bets.  I truly had hands, but nobody got to see them.  At this point, I am fully aware of what my table image is based on those circumstances.

UTG I get dealt the Hiltons, QQ for those not reading poker bloggers for the past two years.  I raise and get called by LP and the BB.  The flop is all undercards, 742 rainbow.  The BB bets out a pot-sized bet and I call.  My current thoughts are that the BB feels that the flop missed me, which it certainly could have had I been playing AK,AQ, etc.  Without much board coordination, I wasn’t concerned with the BB’s hand.

Consider my surprise when LP raises 3x the BB’s bet.

Here’s my super-scientific, world class player, might-as-well-have-ESP read on that move:  LP thinks that the BB’s bet is a stab at a harmless looking flop that must have missed me.  He raises thinking that the BB will fold because he truly doesn’t have a hand and that I will fold because the flop missed me too.

As predicted by both me and the LP player, the BB does indeed fold, which brings the action back around to me.

Since my read on the BB was so flawless, I figured my read on the LP player was also without fault.  So I pushed.

LP had me covered easily and insta-called.  With his set of 4’s.  Oops.

Good thing the turn brought the case 4 giving him quads because I would have had two outs on the river with which to suckout.

I console myself after these moves by saying, “At least I went with my read….”

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Zone of Terror

Recall that Friends episode with Monica’s boyfriend Pete who had just got his ass whipped in an Ultimate fighting competition?  Pete is standing there with both arms in a cast and oblivious to his lack of skill says, “See this circle I'm marking off here? This is my zone of terror.”

Last night I was taken to someone else’s zone of terror.

To be fair, it really wasn’t a zone of terror.  It was, however, a visit outside my zone of comfort, which for all intents and purposes might as well be a zone of terror.


Whenever my cell phone rings on a weekday, I know I’m in for trouble.  Last night as I was putting the mini’s to bed, I heard it’s familiar ring and bolted downstairs to answer it.  The caller id said “The Mark” and I knew what was coming.

“You up for a game tonight?”

Generally I don’t like to press my luck with playing “unscheduled” poker.  Mrs_Blood is more than generous with my time out of the house pursuing unattainable bankroll goals and since I know that overextending myself in this regard is very, very –EV, I try to pick my spots.

I received one of those telltale “You can go’s.”  It the kind where you know that you’re on the borderline of having to watch a chick flick on the weekend in order to make up for going out on a Monday.  Still, I took the bait and told her I’d be back by midnight.


The game would be played at The Rick’s – brother of The Mark.  As I was driving to the game, I got a phone call from G-Rob wondering why I didn’t alert him to the game.  I had incorrectly assumed that The Mark had called him too.  No matter, G-Rob forgave my oversight and arranged for his attendance.

As I pulled into the driveway, I knew right away that I was in for something different.  Rather than the normal assortment of Hondas, Toyotas and Minivans, I parked my 1997 beater next to a shiny Mercedes which just so happened to be parked next to an equally as shiny Jaguar.  I’m sure I was devaluing their vehicles simply by being in the same parking lot.



I was hoping it would be reminiscent of that scene in Rounders when Mike and Worm take big cash from the rich kids.  Not that G-Rob and I are sharks, but I felt that both of us stood a good chance of taking home some serious cash if the players were a bit loose with their play.

The game was dealer’s choice – Hold ‘em, Omaha, Omaha Hi/Lo – all for no limit stakes.  The blinds were $2/4 with a buy-in of $200.  Like I said, out of my comfort zone.

The poker room atop The Rick’s garage was unbelievable - by far the best I’d ever played in.  Custom ChipCo poker chips adorned the racetrack poker table.  If the 50+” HDTV next to the wall wasn’t enough, a smaller TV located above the bar on the other side of the room was available.  Monday Night Football on one, post-season baseball on the other.


As I sat there and played cautiously, G-Rob noted that he’d read somewhere that the buy-in to the game shouldn’t matter – you should just play your own game.  Very true, but very hard to do.

I had missed a few flops early and dropped about one third of my buy-in.  Secretly I wondered how I’d be perceived if I left after dropping “only” one buy-in – the equivalent of four at my normal game.  I didn’t want to be one of those guys obviously in over his head forced to leave with his tail between his legs.  I don’t like being that guy.


Luckily, I found a few hands and managed to win my way to over double my buy-in.  Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last.  The nature of the Omaha beast did me in.  On three occasions, I had the nuts on the turn.  As Omaha experts know, when you have the nuts with no redraws, you can get into trouble.  On each of those three occasions, the river brought an opponent a better hand than mine.

All was not lost, however, and as midnight rolled around I was able to cash out a modest winner.  It’s not the results that I was pleased about, it was the transitioning of zones.  Most assuredly, I was out of my normal comfort zone.  As The Mark would say to me as a big Omaha pot got scooped by his brother, “Welcome to my world.”  It was quite a welcoming, but one I’m glad I endured.

My attempts to move up in limits online has met with failure thus far.  Since the days of Brad-o-ween, I’ve managed to build up the live bankroll to a point where I think I can sit down at this game and eventually be comfortable.  One thing is for sure, leaving your own comfort zone is a sure way to bring the excitement back into your game.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Hey, I Have An MBA

The big news in the online poker world is Party decoupling their skins from their main base of players.  Otis and Bill Rini have posted about it already, with Otis having a potentially nightmarish situation on his hands.  Hopefully things will work out for him; I anticipate they will.

We can all exercise some caution about our online poker site choices.  One of the things I’ve told some co-workers whenever we’d talk about online poker is that I would try not to keep so much money on an online site that I couldn’t live without it should things disappear overnight.  Whenever my balance at one particular site crosses that threshold of “more than I’d feel comfortable losing,” I make a cashout.  I think most of us have Neteller accounts and holding a balance there may be more secure.  Certainly that’s debatable, however at this point, having money at Neteller is not illegal.  But because deposits from Neteller are near instantaneous, it doesn’t limit what I can do with my money, since reloading any poker site is quite easy.

The online poker “industry” is certainly approaching commodity level in a business sense very quickly.  There aren’t too many barriers to entry.  Most of the poker client and server software can be licensed and with a few hundred thousand dollar investment, some bandwidth and some customer support monkeys, launching an online poker site has never been easier.  (I say “easy,” but obviously it’s not, just easier in a relative sense than it was three years ago.)  Just take a peek in any recent CardPlayer magazine.  How many adds for poker sites are there now?  Twenty?  More?

From my perspective, the biggest asset any poker site has is their player base.  When there were only a few sites to choose from, maintaining a reliable player base was much easier.  Now, however, it’s no longer the case.  I don’t know for sure how many sites can be profitably supported by the current player base.  It may be less than what’s currently out there, which means that we will see some consolidation (Empire/Noble) and some companies that will go completely out of business.  That is most certainly a real risk we face.

As Otis mentions (as well as is stated on their print media ads), Pokerstars entrusts their player’s money with a third party.  Their player base is also quite large.  Those two items alone make Pokerstars an attractive site at which to play.  Please note that I am not affiliated with them, it is just an objective recommendation.

I also have some money at Full Tilt.  Their site has some additional games (read Razz) that I like to play and some nice promotions centered around playing with recognizable professionals.  I do not know how their player money is managed however; perhaps some of the other bloggers that work there can enlighten us.

Regardless of where you play, just remember to play it safe.  Things happen very quickly on the intarweb and it’s not totally unreasonable to believe you could lose your entire online bankroll in the blink of a bit.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hand. Of. The. Week.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I get a kick out of Oddjack’s babelfish conversions of hand history text.  So in that light, I have some hand analysis for them to send through their scrambler.

It’s a 50NL table on FullTilt, 6-handed.  I’m dealt pocket 8’s, da snowmen, in MP and call the BB.  An LP player with a stack roughly equal to mine raises to $2.50 and it’s folded around back to me.  Obviously I’m not getting pot-odds to call, but as the freshly-back-from-Aruba DoubleAs says, sets are gold.  I call.

The flop comes QQ5 rainbow and I check.  From my position, whether I have a Q or not, a check doesn’t give anything away about my hand.  Right now, all my opponent knows about my hand is that I limp-called his raise.

LP bets out a pot-sized bet of $6.  Now from my perspective, I know he pre-flop raised, but if he’s holding a Q, he’s sure as hell not betting here.  His bet screams out to me “I don’t have a Q!!”

Based on the bet, I put him on overcards and check-raise to $12 surely expecting him to fold right now.  He doesn’t.  He comes over-the-top all in for $33 more.  Now what do I do?  Fold?

The all-in does represent something here, but what that is may be difficult to say.  I did consider folding for a second, but I remembered something else:  a previous hand.  In that previous hand, the same player was able to push me off a hand when I held just top pair.  In fact, he overbet the pot in a huge way.  He may be thinking he can do the same thing on this hand.

I wasn’t 100% sure I was good, but with the combination of all the evidence, I felt a call was in order.  So I did.

He showed 57s and didn’t improve.  I IM’d G-Rob immediately to tell him what a rockstar I was.


To address a couple of comments from the previous post:

To Chris:  Thanks for stopping by and the kind words.  I’m thinking of doing the same here in G-Vegas, a HU tourney as part of the BadBlood series of tournaments.

To Gamecock:  Dude, when you coming back to the homegames???

To SparkyR:  I don’t consider myself in the same league as the “journalists”, but thank you for saying.

To EasyCure:  I think a “good” ratio is one where you are at least profitable, so based on a 5% juice, you’d need to have a winning percentage of better than 52.5% to break even.  A “great” ratio?  I think anything over 65% would be amazing, that’s nearly equivalent to winning 2 out of every 3 HU matches.  I would only consider sample sizes in the hundreds however, anything less is not enough.  And yes, the GUNZ are doing fine.  I’m flexing right now.  Shazam!

To Trip-Jax:  That HU challenge sounds interesting, I’ll keep an eye out for the next competition.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Not Tails Down

I’m becoming a big fan of these HeadsUp (HU) SNG’s lately.  Perhaps my success ratio in an admittedly small sample size is contributing to my enthusiasm; nonetheless, I am enjoying these small bursts of intense poker.

I haven’t really read much strategy with the exception of the HU section in Harrington on Hold ‘em Volume 2.  Harrington’s dissection of the HU play between Ivey and D’Agostino is worth the price of the book alone.

This blog entry is just a mish-mash of thoughts that have sprouted during the last few days.  Some of it may be considered strategy, but I’m not so foolish to think that I’m any kind of expert yet, so feel free to expand/critique/denounce.


During HU play, I believe that each hand represents an opportunity to shape and mold the texture of the play.  Here’s where attempting to model the psychology of your opponent becomes a factor.  For example, in the early stages of the game, each player is feeling each other out like two boxers throwing a few jabs here and there in Round 1.  It is during this time when you can see if your opponent is passive or aggressive.  One sure sign of passive play is folding the SB preflop.  Once I see my opponent do that, I begin to think I may be able to push him off pots later.

Again, in the early stages, there’s simply no need to fall in love with a hand.  Smart opponents will make you pay a heavy price for chasing your draw.  Pay very close attention to pot odds.  You may think to yourself that if you catch your draw that you can bust your opponent early.  Don’t fall into this trap, HU play success is dependent on several winning decisions, not just one.

Thus far, I’ve been having a 50/50 success ratio in picking off bluffs vs. calling my opponent down who has a hand.  Recognizing the bluffs among the value bets is very important.  The tendency to raise in HU play is more often dictated by the play in previous hands rather than actual hand strength, so putting your opponent on an actual hand can be more difficult.  You also have to remember the times you got called down bluffing.  Your opponent will be more likely to pay you off if he’s picked off one of your bluffs.

Changing gears is also a very effective strategy.  Every now and then, slowplaying a monster hand is deceptive enough to win you a big pot.  The same holds true for an aggressive re-raise on a scary board after you’ve been forced to fold several hands in a row.

I’ve found that once the momentum swings in your direction, you have to take advantage of it and push your opponent hard.  Only when he feels he’s backed into a corner and forced to push back should you hesitate.  From my experience, the turning point when this behavior becomes effective is just when you gain a 2-1 chip advantage.


Over at the Talking Poker forum, there’s a HU tournament that I’ll be playing in more for bragging rights than anything else.  After this week’s foray into this type of play, I’m really looking forward to it.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Weekend Recap


I had a chance to play some live poker at The Mark, but had to stay in and catch up on some things.  Translation:  I stayed up way too late on Thursday and needed to make a long-term +EV decision with respect to marital bliss.  That still didn’t prevent me from donking off $100+ online.  Bah!


The mini’s had friends over, so I did much of nothing.  Played some more online, which I’m sure you’re all FASCINATED to find out how I did.  Again, donked off $100 again, this time at the $3/6 Stud8 game on Pokerstars.  Gugh.  (Aside: for those of you tired of the word “donk” or “donkey”, too freakin’ bad.  I still find it hilarious to say AND type.  Donk-da-da-donk, donk.  Donk donk.)

Saturday did turn around as it was Mrs_Blood’s grandmother’s turn to buy dinner.  We alternate who pays, making it easy on everyone so there’s never any awkward moment when the bill comes.  We went to the Outback where I immediately began to get my drink on.  A couple of BadBloody Mary’s followed by some tall Fosters with dinner was enough to get me going.

(Another aside (Sappy as sappy gets):  As I was sitting there at dinner with the Mrs and the kids, I realized that there is not a man alive luckier than I.  There’s that old adage that you never know what you got ‘til it’s gone – apologies to Tom Kiefer – but in my case, I know what I have and I appreciate it more than anything.  A few brews in me and I’m either off to a strip club or getting all maudlin about my family.  I embody the dichotomy of man in all it’s nonsensical glory.)

After dinner, it was off to The Marks.  Traveling to a live poker game where you can bring your wife and kids is about as ideal as ideal gets.  Our kids travel well and sleep anywhere, so it’s not ever a problem to bring them by The Marks so their degenerate parents can play poker.  Thanks to pokerbtch having recently started a blog, you can read about the exploits there.  My results:  -$40 in the tournament – predictable, +$158 NLHE side games.  Thanks again to G-Rob for paying me off on the trip 7’s. ;)

We got a little punchy by the end of the night, which was actually early Sunday morning.  G-Rob had me cracking up over and over with his naming convention for donkeys playing any two cards.  Bitch Suckleton.  Probably one of those “have to be there” things, but I’m still LOL’ing.


Another lazy day around the house.  I watched the Patriots game in all its high definition misery.  I’m not sure how good or bad they are yet this year, but one thing is for sure, the Chargers are for real.

More online mayhem saw me win about $30 at the NLHE ring games.  Then I did something I’ve never done before.  If you’re an action junkie who likes to play EVERY hand, then these games are for you:  Headsup SNG’s.

I played three $30+1.50 on Full Tilt.  Results were great, I went 3-0.  The first and the third were solid dismantlings of my opponents.  After reading Harrington’s headsup section in volume 2, I felt I was a bit better prepared for these things than your average player.  I saw many players fold pre-flop on the button with the small blind.  According to Harrington, that’s a huge mistake.  There were a couple of times I flopped two-pair with junk.

The second session was a knock down, drag out event.  I picked off a bluff early and took a 1800-1200 lead.  My opponent rallied a bit until the hand where we both flopped a flush.  His was higher and I found myself outchipped 2850 to 150.

I don’t know about you, but if I have that kind of an advantage, I’m putting my opponent all-in every hand until they get back to over 1000 in chips.  The odds of not getting sucked out on even when you’re behind have got to be good enough in a cumulative sense that this has to be the proper strategy.

My opponent chose another path.  He folded to many of my all-ins and after one suckout on the river, I managed to find myself with the chip lead.  We got it all-in when I had AJ and he had K9d suited on a 667 two-diamond flop.  He missed all his draws and I won.

Those headsup matches are great.  You have to focus COMPLETELY at all times.  There is no period of fold, fold, fold where you find yourself tooling the Intarweb for decent porn waiting for a hand to play.

And that’s where I leave you on this Monday morning, 16 days away from my solo trip to Vegas.