Tuesday, February 20, 2007

You Had Me At "How Many Sets Do You Have Left?"

Sure, G-Vegas has its poker celebrities. Not a week goes by without Otis, G-Rob, TheMark or myself getting stopped in the street by an adoring fan seeking an autograph or some little tidbit of poker knowledge to help their game. That's simply the price you pay for fame. Alas, we live with it.

So it was no real surprise when yesterday I was approached by an Oscar-award-winning actress at the gym. It was painfully obvious she just wanted to get close to the guns that have achieved legendary status in the poker blogging community. Seriously.

How else can you explain the following: I had just come from the upstairs weight room, having just completed my first exercise of my workout - the bench press. I was listening to my workout mix on my iPod, totally in the zone with Night Rage's "The Tremor." On my way down the stairs, I noticed said actress working her legs on the Nautilus leg press machine. Out of the corner of my eye, as I passed her by, I noticed one of those subtle glances directed my way.

I took a seat at the shoulder press machine and before I could even begin my first set, Renee Zellweger sat right next to me at the lateral raise machine. Think about it. Who goes from working your legs to working your medial deltoids? Add to that fact that once she was finished with that machine, she went right back to working her legs. What a non-sensical workout progression.

Non-sensical unless you're totally trying to get close to the guns.

It's understandable though. Her marriage to Kenny Chesney was short-lived, but if you think about it, I'm basically a huge upgrade. To wit, I submit the following:

Hairstyle: Kenny - shaved head. BadBlood - shaved head. Winner: BadBlood - no need for stupid ten-gallon hat.

Armsize: Kenny - small, defined. BadBlood - huge, defined. Winner: BadBlood

Tatoos: Kenny - none that I'm aware of = pa-HU-ssay. BadBlood - tribal symbol on shoulder, translates to "Man with huge junk." Winner: BadBlood (apologies to Bobby Bracelet)

Favorite Lyrics: Kenny - "In the mornin' I'm leavin' making my way back to Cleveland. BadBlood - "Hello Cleveland!" This is Spinal Tap. Winner: BadBlood

So there you have it. Through the use of deductive reasoning and logic, it's no wonder Ms. Zellweger found it necessary to perform a meaningless shoulder exercise in the middle of her leg workout just to get close to the guns of Blood.

So Renee, if you or your assistants are ego surfing this morning, let me just say this. I work out Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Feel free to approach me and ask to touch them. Maudie, Heather, and Jaxia have and if you ever run into them, they'll tell you it was worth it.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Cubicle Next Door

If you ask any player in G-Vegas to describe Random101's poker play, you'd probably get the same answer from everyone.


Sure, that's partly true, but he's more than well aware of his own image and uses it well against the proper opponents. *cough* G-Rob *cough*

This past week at work, he told me he qualified for an FTOPS event, the Pot Limit Hold 'em one on Friday. So I sweated him a bit. By the time I hit the sack at 1 AM, he was in the top 20 in chips with the money bubble fast approaching.

Here's how he finished:

I like to think that our regular poker conversations at the beginning of each morning helped with his development, but the bottom line is that he's simply too intelligent not to get better at poker regardless of what his office mate donkey has to say.

So a hearty congrats goes out to my good friend, Random101, on an incredible tourney performance.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Supply and Demand

Welcome to G-Vegas.

If you ever visit, and have a Jonesing for poker, we can help. One of the things I predicted last fall when the UIGEA was passed was that there would be a surge in live poker. I didn’t think our little town would respond as such; I was thinking along the lines that legal B&M rooms in Vegas, Atlantic City, Mississippi and California would see an increase in business.

I was wrong.

In G-Vegas, you can find a game at the Spring Hotel on Wednesday’s, Friday’s and Sunday’s. The Gaelic Game runs its mayhem on Tuesday’s and Saturday’s. With the Gucci Rick home game on Monday, the process of elimination leaves Thursday as a free night. That used to be our favorite night for home games, but we sadly don’t have those as often as we used to.

The local degenerates decided that it’s silly not to have a game every day of the week and as such a Thursday night game was born.


Upon pulling into the disclosed location, G-Rob and I were a bit wary. Yet another house, shrouded in darkness with a dozen cars parked out of sight from the main road. We recognized a familiar vehicle, one driven by G-Vegas legend Frank the Tank. At least there would be someone we’d recognize at this game.

It turns out, we recognized just about everyone. This game was just another night and just another location for the regulars who inhabit the other games around town. At first, I didn’t think we’d make this game very often, but based on its familiarity with the dealers and players, both of us felt comfortable enough such that we’d most likely come back on random Thursday’s when we had nothing better to do.


Speaking of nothing to do, with my unceremonious exits from both FTOPS events that I played in, the nights of grinding away at the poker machine will be diminished. But such is life. When something that takes up a bunch of your time goes away, other activities slowly fill the void; and before you know it, you wonder where the time went.

I remember when I was taking classes two nights a week, and the kids were at the terror-inducing ages of 4 and 2. I was busy as hell and couldn’t wait to finish my MBA degree and simply do nothing except vegetate. Online poker eventually filled that gap; and at this point, live poker may fill at least some of that void left in the wake of the Fristing.

And because I bought Mrs_Blood some new furniture last month, my poker leash was extended by a few links in the chain. It’s my job not to abuse that because word around town is that she’s in the market for new carpet. Bankroll, shmankroll, she says.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Master Debater

It seems the debate goes on. Luck vs. skill. Poker vs. Gambling. Balboa vs. Creed. Regardless, it appears there may be much to be gained if poker can be proven to be a game of skill rather than luck.

I’ve seen a couple of ideas lately that have me thinking more about this issue.

First, on Lou Krieger’s blog, he makes mention of a “duplicate” poker tournament wherein you compete not with the players at your table, but rather your counterpart at other tables. Your counterpart receives the same exact cards as do you, and sees the same exact flop, turn and river. It is an attempt to eliminate the luck factor and determine whose play is more skillful in similar situations. It seems difficult to do in a live setting due to administrative issues like deck setting and equaling the chip distributions, but as Lou mentions, this seems a perfect fit for an online or computer-based simulation.

A thread over on 2+2 started by David Sklansky is also interesting. In it, he states that you shouldn’t look at how skill impacts your ability to win in poker but rather how the lack of it impacts your ability to lose quickly. He, via his son Mat, theorizes that the difference in skill between a very good poker player and an average-skilled player is still quite small. It is because of this that the luck factor appears to be larger than it truly is.

I responded with this analogy in the thread:

I really like this argument.

If you suppose that poker is a competition among skilled players and that the difference in skill between the marginally skilled and exceptionally skilled is still close, of course that will magnify the luck factor.

Hypothetically assume two archers of near exact skill. Who wins a competition in archery? The uncontrollable factors, like the wind, air density, etc. will be super-magnified between two such competitors while minimized between an expert and an amateur. Archery is certainly a skill-based activity, but between two near identical competitors, it could be viewed as a game of luck by an ignorant observer.

The bottom line is that arguments like these are going to have to potentially convince lawmakers that poker is a skill-based game. Hopefully, with the collective intelligence of the poker community generating new ideas on this subject, we’ll one day see a wider acceptance of this belief.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Self Indictment

Trust me when I say this. I’m one of you guys. I’m just as guilty.

With the online poker world in a tizzy over the Neteller funds seizure, there are more than a few posts and articles out there wondering why nobody stepped up to do anything to prevent the passage of the UIGEA. Why did not one of the big money-making entities do anything in Washington to make sure their business remained viable for decades? Online poker sites, casinos and television giants, have made millions but none of those monies were spent greasing the palms of those with the capability to vote down the absurdity that is the UIGEA.

Rewind your time machines a half-decade for a minute. I’ve mentioned it before, but the similarity of online poker to the Napster music download service is not to be overlooked. In effect, Napster was shut down by the RIAA and nobody could ever download music again. OK, that’s a lie. What really happened is that other services sprang up, and while some were short lived, others survived (cough, bitTorrent, cough) and took Napster’s place among the savvy.

There is a bunch of really smart people out there. And these smart people, working TOGETHER, managed to develop and distribute new technology that makes downloading music, movies and software easier than it ever was, if you were so inclined.

With companies like Neteller, FirePay and many other financial intermediaries shutting down to US-based players, where are those same smart people working to produce viable alternatives? Where are those same smart people when it comes down to working TOGETHER to find a solution?

The crux of the matter, in my opinion, is that poker players are simply not interested in working together to solve a common problem. It’s the way they’re wired. The game of poker, especially tournament poker, is a “Me Against the World” endeavor. For those of us drawn to the game, there’s something inherent in our very natures that prevents us from ever thinking about much more than ourselves when it comes to the game.

I’m not trying to slam anyone, especially considering the nature of our blogging community, which would seem to invalidate what I just claimed. There are exceptions, and there have been some amazing things done by various communities in the poker world to make a difference in other people’s lives. Whether it’s charities, gatherings, or simply helping a friend in need, there are times when we can pool our collective resources and make a difference.

But when it comes to the survival of the game itself, we’re all a bit lacking. The community of poker is filled with a variety of personalities and player types. Very few of those players, however, recognize the inherent beauty of the game and instead simply see it as gambling. If that form of gambling goes away, they’ll find another. For fear of coming off too much like James McManus here, my point is that the percentage of players who would work to better the game is too small. To be fair, it is hard work to provide poker players a place to play. That’s why there’s a rake. But for the players, their only real concern is finding a seat, either virtual or real, where they can compete and win against their loathsome opponents.

Ask yourself this question the next time you sit down at a random poker table. Would you work with these people, would you trust these people, could you care about these people enough to join them in trying to keep the game alive? I doubt it. If you’re like me, you’ll look at them with contempt and wonder how quickly and decisively you can take their money before the game breaks down. Because that’s what poker is, a competition wherein it’s you against everyone else.

And like I said, I’m just as guilty.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Blogger Too

I switched over to the blogger2 format. You may have to re-subscribe.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

My Last Serenade

(Preamble:  To any Killswitch Engage fans, whenever I hear that song, I substitute Lemonade for Serenade.  I’m funny like that.  Yeah, like a clown.)

Just to clarify, what follows is not a recommendation for everyone.  I’m simply stating my opinion on the matter and how it applies to me personally.

I’ve decided to withdraw a healthy percentage of my online funds.  I asked for a check from Stars and sold off some other portion of that roll to a local friend who’s still interested in playing.  To be fair, I’m still very interested in playing online too; but I can’t justify the risk of keeping more than I’m willing to lose at various sites.

Let me state a few things first.  I trust Pokerstars completely and have no fear of them absconding with my money.  The same pretty much holds true with Full Tilt as well, although research indicates it may be marginally more difficult to get a check delivered to me by them.  Still, I don’t really feel that my online balances at those two sites are in any danger of simply disappearing.

With all that said, I just sense a growing difficulty in the viability of any 3rd party’s ability to deliver to me that money from each site quickly and easily.  Granted, it’s still very feasible right now.  But to say that the risk hasn’t increased would be a bit foolhardy.

My decision to do this is also heavily based on the fact that there are plenty of live games, both above and underground, here in G-Vegas to occupy my time.  It’s not like I’m quitting poker.  It feels like I’m fighting two battles and I’m losing one of them.  The smart thing to do would be to move troops and ammunition from the losing battle to the winning one.  And that’s what I’m doing, just boosting my live roll with the majority of my remaining online one.

My reaction to all that’s going on is most likely on the conservative side.  But that’s how I roll, 30-year fixed mortgage and all.  The online environment is going through drastic changes right now and none of them are conducive to me making enough money to justify the time expenditure.  For instance, last night at 10pm EST, there were about 6 to 8 tables of $400NL going on at Stars.  The highest % of players to a flop for those tables was 21%.  That’s not a large amount of data, but it’s anecdotal evidence to me that the games are changing for the worse relative to what I feel are conditions suited to me winning.

Of course, I’d be lying to everyone if I said I was going to give up completely.  As G-Rob and his extra $50 will attest, I can’t do that.  So my reduced online roll will primarily be used for SNG’s and MTT’s when I have the appropriate amount of time to play in them.  The days of grinding out ring-game wins and climbing the NL ladder have temporarily been put on hold.  Key word there is temporarily.

Things will come back.  Of that I’m relatively confident.  But I’m choosing to wait rather than struggle against the rising tide of regulations and red tape.  I will say this, however; if it weren’t for the flourishing live action scene around town, I would not have chosen this path.  Like I mentioned previously, I’m not saying The Sky is Falling; even though it is a bit cloudy at the moment.  I’m just choosing to focus elsewhere for the time being.

Doom and gloom?  Perhaps.  But nothing a “procedure” can’t fix.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Back in 1993, rather than spend money buying each other Christmas gifts, our family decided to save that money and instead use it for a family vacation.  We collectively chose Aruba and spent a week there lying on the beach, swimming in the hotel’s pool, enjoying some fine dining, and if you were me, losing your shirt at the casinos.

I lost about $700 that week and while the sum wasn’t going to break me, it was far more than I anticipated losing.  I’ll never forget the 4am walk back to my hotel room from a neighboring casino, looking up at the stars and wondering how I let myself get so stuck.  I will forever remember the sinking feeling in my stomach, a physical manifestation of my self-disgust, embarrassment, and loathing.  There are times when even today, that same feeling will return.


I call that feeling the gambler’s stomach.  I think that term is used in other ways, more traditionally to describe one who has the nerve to make big gambles; but for me, it represents that feeling where I finally realize that I’ve lost my self-control while gambling when I shouldn’t have been.

Sometimes that feeling reappears at the poker table.  As we all know, you can play poker such that it’s more akin to gambling than a skill game.  It’s easier to take the skill out than to put the skill into your play, shifting the outcome to reflect more heavily on randomness than the quality of your decision making process.


I hosted a home game last Thursday and by midnight, my stomach was tied in the all-to-familiar knots associated with loss of control.

In my previous post, where I mentioned doubling through my son’s basketball coach, I didn’t reveal just how much of a successful evening for me that truly was.  That night, I was on.  I played my hands strongly and my good cards held up.  Every time.  It was a perfect storm, as Otis would say in a subsequent email, of good cards and good play against less than stellar opposition.  I bought in for 1 buy-in and cashed out for almost ten.

(For the purposes of tying up loose ends, the day after that win Mrs. Blood got her furniture.)

Then came the Monday game at Gucci Rick’s.  We were 6-handed and we devolved into one round of NLHE alternating with one round of NLO8.  NLO8.  Gambling.  I lost.  I played the hold ‘em rounds marginally well, having to make some laydowns that while proper, were difficult.  But in NLO8, the all-in’s pre and post-flop were nothing more than a gamble.  Like I said, I lost.

Fast-forward (or rewind depending on your frame of reference) to Thursday at the house.  It was the worst poker I’ve ever played.  In fact, calling it poker would have been a disgrace to the name of the game.  Often times, I’ll give myself a score between 0 and 100 to reflect how I played that night.  Two Saturday’s ago would have been a 95.  Thursday was a zero.  Goose egg.  It was sad.

A little after midnight, I quit the game for a while.  At my own house.  I had to leave the table mainly out of embarrassment.  I felt unqualified to sit at the same table as TheMark, G-Rob, and GucciRick.  It was a confidence crushing night and it only took the memory of a 4am walk on the beach for me to truly figure out why.


Over the past few years, I’ve developed a good sense for where I stand in a hand.  Looking back, there are very few times when I’m genuinely surprised at someone else’s holdings.  When I’m ahead or even if it’s close, I seem to know it.  When I’m behind, even very far behind, I know it as well.

It’s the times that I know when I’m behind and still can’t stop myself from pushing chips into the pot that I know I’ve lost the self-control to play well.  Sure, I can still call, raise, or even push; but I know I need to outdraw my opponent in order to win the pot.  Gambling.  Not poker.

And when I stray too far away from poker and into the regime of gambling, it makes me sick.  In my stomach.


This last Saturday, I was a bit hesitant to go out and play again.  But part of me needed to.  I needed to know I could stay focused, to keep my play within the realm of my strengths, where I stand a decent chance to win.  I had to go play poker to prove that I could withstand the temptation to gamble.