Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Invisible Hand

We don’t live in an ideal world. In the world of physics, most concepts are taught from within the artificial confines of a frictionless environment. It’s a smart way to eliminate minor effects from the overall behavior of a system. Only when the time comes to model real-world events does friction enter the equation.

Poker is similar. Ideally, poker is a zero-sum game. I win a pot, you lose a pot. Your chips go from your stack to mine in an equal but opposite reaction. Well, almost. Poker has friction. The little bit of energy generated by the transaction. You know it as rake.

If the pot is big enough, you barely notice it. What’s a few dollars to the house when you double up through some moron? If the dealers are savvy enough, you barely notice them reach into the pot, remove part of it, and place it into the drop. Online poker does it too. It’s usually the last thing you’ll notice on a hand history.

The poker population is skewed. Several sources claim that the winners are outnumbered by the losers by a factor of 9 to 1. Part of that reason is the rake. Many break-even players and small losers would find themselves winners in an ideal, frictionless environment.

Here are some statistics just for a frame of reference.

I’ve been playing some PLO8 on FullTilt, small stakes, only a $25 buy-in game. In the last month or so, I’ve logged 13,099 hands.

Amount won: $293.40 for a 4.48 PTBB/100 win rate.
During that same time, thanks to having 27% rakeback, I’ve received $144.57 for my efforts. My winnings, which are modest, are only 2x the amount I received via rakeback. Now, in reality, my contribution to the rake is nearly 4x that amount (1/.27 = 3.7) If there were no rake, I’d be up a much larger amount. That’s a serious amount of friction for any player to overcome. Few people recognize it and few do anything about it.

Now, just to be clear, I understand rake has its place. It’s not easy to set up a poker game, online or live. I host enough home games to know that providing the environment for a fun, successful game is work. It’s a service, and people are willing to pay for it. But if you ever think seriously enough about the setting you’re playing in, you’ll realize that the invisible opponent at the table is perhaps the one most difficult to beat.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pink Link

Greetings friends, readers and fellow bloggers. As many of you know, I am married. My wife, known here as Mrs_Blood, has undertaken a challenge of sorts. I promised her I'd put something on my blog for her. She knows I have one, but never reads it. I believe that's what they'd call "A Good Thing."

What she's doing is also "A Good Thing." She's a far better person than I.

So if you have a chance to visit the following link or click the pink new banner ad in the upper right, it would be most appreciated.

MrsBlood and Avon Walk for Breast Cancer

Friday, January 16, 2009

My Former Life

Most likely a bunch of you have heard about the plane crash in the Hudson river caused by the engines ingesting a bird and becoming disabled.

One of the things I used to work on back in my days in good ole' Massachusetts was aircraft engines. I primarily worked on military applications. I helped with exhaust design on the F404 - the engine used in the Stealth Fighter. I also covered engine tests on the F414 engine used in the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Sometimes, the job was pretty cool.

Occasionally, the folks on our team got to witness "Bird Ingestion" testing. Just so you know, these types of events are accounted for in engine design. It's not like nobody ever thought that a bird would get sucked into the engine inlet. The intent is for the engine to avoid failure or fail in a non-catastrophic manner.

One of my co-workers covered a test where, let's just say, things did not go as planned.

During these tests, bird carcasses are fired from an air-cannon into a stationary rig where the engine is running. This is done to simulate an engine mounted in its airframe in flight. On this particular test, the first bird was fired into the engine inlet and it completely destroyed the engine. It was like a bomb hit it.

Military aircraft engines are quite expensive. LDO.

Apparently, the test operator forgot to thaw out the frozen bird carcass. Not good.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Rock Says Know Your Role

My role in life is to host poker games for special out of town guests. I'm OK with that. I enjoy it. Hopefully those who come from such long distances enjoy themselves. Drizz, CK, F-Train, Heather, you name 'em.

This Friday we have another guest. You may know him as Absinthe. You may know him as Ryan from the Murderers Row game. Or you may know him as the man who busted Jesus:

We will have 9 players on Friday:

TheTyle (In yet another astounding spurt of creativity, I've given that nickname to someone whose last name is Tyler. Yo estoy EN FUEGO!)
Lee Jones
Frank the Tank
Brian the Red

By my decree, this shall heretofore be known as "something to look forward to."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Things Not To Do

Back in June of '08, after the Steel Panther show, it was decided that it would be a fantastic idea to play poker in the Green Valley Ranch poker room. CJ and I sat at a 4/8 limit table and Otis and G-Rob got seats at the 1/2NL game. It was 1:30am and only a few tables were running. Three out of the four of us were pretty obliterated. Zero dollars to whomever can guess who wasn't.

Many of the players at the 4/8 table were the just the type of limit, grinder, nit, rock, old, grumpy, sour, angle-shooting, can't-beat-the-rake players you'd expect to see at a low stakes table in Vegas. I'm sure I pissed them off.

I was dealt pocket Aces three times in less than two orbits and announced to the table I had them each time. Nobody believed me. Even when I told them once that I flopped quad Jacks, I got paid off. My idiocy was running as high as my blood alcohol content.

Things only got worse, though.

I left the table after I mis-read my hand thinking I flopped a set of 6's when in reality I had 68o. I then took my drunken self to the 1/2 NL game, made really bad homo-erotic jokes and dropped two buy-ins. Then I played craps by myself, tried to catch a cab back to the strip by myself, but failed because I couldn't find my way out of the casino. Finally, I nearly passed out sweating G-Rob's cards at the 1/2 game begging everyone to leave before I died.

You'd think I would have learned my lesson.


December '08, I was at it again. This time, the cast of characters was different. StB and California April showed the highest level of intellect and grabbed a cab back to the strip. That left me, Dr.Jeff, Dr. Chako, TheTrooper, TheWife and PokerPeaker to head over to the poker room and spew some chips.

TheTrooper and PokerPeaker grabbed a 1/2NL seat while The Wife sat at 2/4 limit. Dr.Jeff, Dr. Chako and I wisely sat down at the 2/5NL game with only two other people. Awesome idea. Play short-handed 2/5NL with two friends and two locals. What could go wrong?

One of the locals was a older man in his 60's wearing a gray Members Only jacket. As drunk as I was, it was pretty easy to determine that he was the target at the table. I'd watch him fire 3-barrels each time he was open-raising regardless of his holdings. I just needed a hand to catch him. Obviously, Chako saw the same thing as he simply called every bet he made and took down a huge pot early when old-guy showed down Ace high.

Little did I know that the two Doc's were not just targetting the obvious.


Since it was short-handed, I opened up my starting card selection and raised from the button with QJo. Chako made a small-ish re-raise from the blinds and I elected to call. The flop came down KJx giving me middle pair, but certainly the flop hit his re-raising range a bit harder. He led the flop and I folded.

He showed the hammer. Nice. Ouch. But nice.

Later, Dr. Jeff made an opening raise and I looked down to find pocket Jacks. I re-raised and it was folded back to him.

"I have a strong hand," he assured me. "So do I," I replied.

Dr. Jeff offered to perhaps check it down. Being friends and not wanting to play a huge pot against him, I considered it. But as soon as I said, "Yeah, that's fine," Dr. Jeff went all-in.


I folded my hand face up and my starting stack of $500 was cut in half.

I guess we were going to play real poker against each other. I felt myself sobering up more quickly than I anticipated.


TheTrooper came by and began to sweat my cards. He had just performed a hit and run on the 1/2 table due to some asshat that pissed him off. I loved his response to the guy who had just doubled him up. "I'm hitting and running on you mainly because you're a douchebag."

Quick. Simple. To the point.

Once he sat down behind me, I was able to focus more and managed to win my way back up to about $650. It was at that point that Dr. Jeff's capability to play 2/5NL vanished. A few too many RedBullVodkas at the Steel Panther show finally caught up to him. The final straw was when he was bluffing the turn with a $100 bet and I insta-pushed. His stack of reds never made it to the pot, he just casually placed them in my stack and then folded his hand.

We all decided to go donk at 2/4 for a while before finally making our way back to the strip at 5am.


Obviously, as a person who shows little evidence of learning from his mistakes, the next time I'm at Steel Panther, you'll see me once again at the Green Valley Ranch poker room making stupid poker plays with other stupid poker people.

It doesn't get any more fun than that.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday in Vegas

Sometimes you never forget where you were when you heard a certain song for the first time. The Axeman picked me up for a night of drinking a few years ago and put in a CD he'd recently burned.

"Ever hear of Metal Shop?" he asked. "Uh, no. Why?" was my reply.

"Just listen."

The first song started out like most any classic Hair Metal band song would. Standard intro riff, a bit of lead work. Then the lyrics hit.

I see your boobies and I wanna screw.
Lookin' at you makes my balls turn blue
I wanna see you in a little bikini.
Wrappin' your boobs around my fat WEENIE!

I would later internally re-name that song Instant Smile. It's not often you hear genius. But with Metal Shop's "Hole Patrol" CD, I could hear genius every day.


In June of 2007, StB and I found ourselves stumbling into the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino after some drunken play at the MGM and Hooter's poker rooms. Metal Shop had renamed themselves Metal Skool and were playing at the "Body Shot" bar. I fully expected to pay upwards of $30 for the show. No chance I was missing them live. I had given StB the .mp3's for Hole Patrol and he agreed - no price was too steep.

Imagine our excitement when we were handed 2 free passes to the show. Life was good. StB and I drank some more, worked our way to the front row and rocked out to some classic 80's metal renditions. Who knew that Metal Skool was also funny as shit?

"Who wants to see more Metal Skool?" lead singer Michael Starr shouted at the end of their set (that's two R's, for double rockin' dude!). A huge uproar from the crowd was met with an acerbic "Cool, come back next Thursday!"


June of 2008 - I coerced Otis, G-Rob, and CJ to go with me to Green Valley Ranch to see the latest incarnation of Metal Skool, formerly known as Metal Shop, now known as Steel Panther. You can ask them how it went. Pretty sure they had a good time, especially when G-Rob was made part of the show.

"Look at that guy! That's what it looks like when a Sears explodes." And when the spotlight shone on Otis, "Oh wait, there's his gay lover."

From there, I believe they launched into their MySpace classic: Asian Hooker

More genius:

"I'm a man, with a plan. I'm fuckin' going to Japan. Gonna spend a couple a grand, just fuckin' hookers in the can."


This past December I tried to convince as many people as I could to go to Green Valley Ranch and catch the Steel Panther show. For me personally, I'll never have a Vegas trip without seeing them. I know it's difficult to drag anybody away from a poker table, especially when you're winning, and then take a 15 minute cab ride off strip for what could easily be perceived as a stupid concert.

But it's worth it.

StB, California April, DrJeff, TheTrooper, Dr. Chako, The Wife, and Poker Peaker were willing souls and I'm pretty sure everyone had a great time. Check out The Wife's trip report, the pics don't do justice to the event.


So what do you do after a Steel Panther show? Destroy the GVR poker room of course....

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

People Wanna Know

Rarely do I get asked, "Hey, where's the blog post about such and such?" But sometimes things happen that are so astronomically improbable that multiple people do exactly that.

G-Rob won my 5th Annual New Year's Day Tournament.

Yes, that's right. It's not a typo. I know what you're thinking. "How could this happen?" "G-Rob?" "Does he even still play poker?" "My, he looks a bit slimmer."


We had 22 runners this year, which was right about where I expect things to settle out each year. The host, me, defending champion, managed to draw a seat to the immediate right of Mrs_Blood at the table in the kitchen. That was the day's first bad beat. You see, while she's most certainly the best thing to ever happen to me in real life, in poker life, she's the exact opposite. Those of you with poker-playing spouses understand. You just can't get away with raising your wife's blinds every orbit and not hear about it later. Few people pitied me, which is standard operating procedure at my house.

So too is standard operating procedure for me to be one of the biggest pay off wizards on the planet. That's how I'd have my Aces cracked by K2o early in level one. I also mis-read GucciRick on a medium sized pot later in the same orbit to take my 5000 starting chip stack down to around 1700. It wasn't the way I wanted to start defending my short-lived crown. In level 4, with the blinds 100/200, I made a stand.

After chipping back up to right around 3800, I limped from the button in a 4-way pot with Ts8s. Stan "The Man" McKinney, who continued his tradition of bringing a half-eaten salami to the party, min-raised from the big blind. Nobody folded. With the pot at 1600, the flop came Ks8d2s. Stan led out for 1000 and it was folded to me. With my pair and a flush draw, I had a decision to make. Fold and leave myself about 3400 in chips or gamble and try to double up against Stan. I opted to go for broke and try to build a stack. I pushed, Stan called with his pocket Aces, and Mrs_Blood, the dealer at the time, issued two bricks to the board to send me packing. There would be no repeat champion.


I was not the first to hit the couch and begin the wait for the cash game. My son's gymnastics coach (who I was saddened to find out was not this person) finished an unfortunate last, followed closely by special guest Lee Jones. Lee now lives in close-by Asheville and made the trek down to G-Vegas to visit our core group of local degenerates. As more and more people busted out, I kept overhearing from the other room phrases like "suckout," "unbelievable," "bad beat," and "G-Rob."

Random101's self-fulfilling prophecy of bubbling in 5th came true when he got it in with pocket Jacks against G-Rob's KJo. No chance. Newcomer Ryan would finish 4th, Shep Tiltstein a very respectable 3rd, and GucciRick would finish as the runner-up. G-Rob had outlasted a decent field and for the first time in ages lay claim to some kind of championship of his own.

Otis was very happy that G-Rob would now be able to pay him back the cash he borrowed after getting wiped out at the last (4) cash game(s) he'd played in.

Slight dig. Said with a smile.

But TRUE! :)


I do enjoy hosting a live tournament and cash game. I really do. But it's expensive. Especially when you pay for your wife's tourney buy-in. And her cash game buy-in. Thankfully, due to some nice luck in PLO, I was able to recoup all expenses and start the year off in the black. Hopefully everyone who played had an enjoyable time. If all goes well, I should hopefully host my annual birthday tournament again in April. Now if I can avoid being that pay off wizard I spoke about, I can keep letting the wife freeroll. If not, I'll just buy my son into the game instead of me.