Wednesday, July 25, 2007

State of the Union

Where I'm at, where I've been, where I will be.


I've been given an opportunity to take a full week's break from live poker, effective yesterday. My wife and daughter are flying up to New York City to visit my sister for the weekend and are leaving Thursday. (FYI: My sister is single, hear that Rooster?) As such, I'll be a full time Dad for a few days and although I'm not completely sure, taking miniBlood to the underground games in town is most likely a bad idea. Unless of course I stake him.

I've lost my last three sessions and the timing for this break couldn't be better. Is there a growing disillusionment with poker festering somewhere inside my mind? Maybe. Maybe not. If there is, its source is the thoughts of playing just-slightly-above-break-even poker for nearly seven months.

In January, I was riding high on a very positive month and purchased new furniture for the wife. I managed to negotiate another poker night per week out of the deal, but still used it only sparingly. Still, when there's very little money coming in, thoughts of lost time fill my head.

You know, as you age and approach 40, you realize time is the most precious of resources. We each have a finite, and yet unknown amount of it. You can't get it back. Ever.


Certainly over the past four years, I've taken more out of the game than I've put in. Monetarily that is. But what about everything else? Obviously I have doubts.

The facets of poker that interest me are not often found at a local 1/2 table. Playing ABC poker, getting a hand and getting paid off is simply brain-dead, mechanical play. There is no intellectual stimulation there. And lately, I've not had the patience to play that way. I want a different challenge.

The question is, where do I find it? Higher limits? Maybe. But I've not the roll for that since I invested 2/3rds of my winnings. Stupid or smart? You decide. I haven't yet.


Monday night, The Depot was rolling. There were three 1/2 tables and one full 5/10 table. It was sick. As I sat there and lost, I thought that this evening was the culmination of everything that's been happening in the G-Vegas poker scene for the past few years. I consider myself partly responsible, but there's basically no chance of ever having a regular home game again.

And as much as I used to consider live, mixed-game limit poker the least stimulating of games, I confess to yearning for at least one night of doing just that.

I will probably schedule a 4/8 HORSE game for the house sometime after Otis detoxes and for a night G-Rob can make it. After speaking with them, I have a feeling that may be what we all need.


Where is this all going? I'm not sure. If you look up mid-life crisis on wikipedia, the sixth characteristic states "a deep sense of remorse for goals not accomplished."

My goals in life have really never been discrete ones. They've been continuous. Raising and providing for a family is not something you just do one day, it's something that happens little by little over long periods of time. There is no watershed moment when you say to yourself, "I've done it." It's just something that you do. It gives you guidance when you need to make a decision. Kind of like playing good poker.

I have no defining moment in poker. No "big win" per se. I just have a bunch of little decisions whose cumulative effect has made me a winning player. Lately, I'd have to say that it's not been enough. I need and want more out of the game, but feel there's not a real way to get it. This break will be good for me. I want to squash the lingering doubt that I just may have been playing too much, the cost of which being something too high for me to pay.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I guess it's not just me.

There's a player who frequents the Depot, and while I can't quite remember his name, I won't forget certain aspects of his play that remind me a little bit of myself. Certainly players with opposing styles can teach you about your own game and what it lacks. But studying players with very similar styles can also yield valuable insights as well.

He's a solid player, and without meaning to be to critical of his play, I'd assess his style as nearly identical to mine prior to me paying closer attention to the unorthodox play of G-Rob and TheMark. It would be unfair to say he's predictable, but certainly tight and aggressive would be appropriate.

Regardless, last night at The Depot the aforementioned player managed to get all his money in against two other players holding top and bottom pair on a 2-spade board. The turn paired his lower card giving him 5's full of King's. Unfortunately, the other card on the board, a seven, paired on the river giving someone else 7's full of 5's. It turned out to be a one-outer. I felt his pain from across the table. But not right then.

The pain I felt happened perhaps only 15 minutes later when he flopped top set against pocket Queens. Again, the money went in on the flop and the player with Queens was pleading for the dealer to run out diamonds or just give him the 2-outer to end it then. The Queen hit the river and when it did, I read the player for being somewhat devastated.

Meanwhile, I'd managed to build my stack up by avoiding such beats and was riding high on a surge of confidence.

So what did I do? Here's where the sadist in me comes to life.

I tried to put my frame of mind in his. I tried to make me think that the beats had just happened to me. Why? Because I find it so hard to do the exact opposite. I still find it extremely difficult to force my mindset to the confidence that a big winning stack affords me after I take some improbable beats.

Perhaps the path towards that mindset lay in traversing it in reverse.

And you know what? I couldn't do it. Just as I can't seem to find that confidence after taking a string of bad beats, neither can I find that desolation with a pile of profit in front of me. It's odd. I just can't trick myself. And maybe that's what is holding me back a bit in this poker game I keep playing.

More than likely, the path exists, but it takes me longer than most to find it. I found myself muttering to the wife on the ride home from the vacation poker debacle and it wasn't until we arrived back at the hotel that I was over it. It took me about twenty minutes. Not five, not ten, but a full twenty.

Luckily The Depot has other things to do, because generally I just rebuy instantly to get back into the game after I go broke on a beat. Perhaps now, I'll make a martini (that takes easily 5 minutes to do correctly) and have a seat on the sidelines until I clear that path I can't normally find right away.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

One Day On Vacation

Mrs_Blood gave the go-ahead on one day of poker-ing during our stay down here in Northern Florida. The card rooms in the area had just expanded their options and betting limits, even including a no-limit offering with $100 max buy-ins. With the blinds at these tables being $2/$2, I knew it would be somewhat of a crapshoot. Little did I know it'd be a crap-fest.

Mrs_Blood was having a stupendous day. She had been offered a job she had been after, one that is a bit of a promotion for her as a teacher of little rugrats. She had interviewed a while ago and got an unexpected phone call in the morning informing her of the news. To say she was excited was an understatement.

Later on in the afternoon, her good fortune continued as she was searching for shark's teeth on the beach we were staying on. She found a second one to go with the one she found earlier. Even the small things make her get excited, as anyone who's met her knows.

I figured that with her luck, she'd clean up at the poker tables. I gave her $100 and sat her at a $2/$4 limit table while I took my chances at the no-limit tables.

What a freaking disaster.

For me.

My first hand of joy saw me check-raise all in on an AQT flop holding top two. My big-stacked opponent was just trying to double me up by calling with QJ. I figured I was sweating a King. Silly me. Try runner-runner Jacks. That stung, especially considering the runner-runner debacle I suffered at the Depot a couple of weeks ago that I still won't blog about because it was so absurd.

Undeterred, I rebought. Meanwhile, Mrs_Blood mouths to me from a table across the room that she's up $50. Just like I thought. It is her day after all.

The second river suckout wasn't as bad. Again, with stacks so small in relation to flop pot sizes, I check-raised all-in again with top pair, decent kicker. A flush draw with no overcards called and hit on the river.

Slightly deterred, I rebought.

My third buy-in whittled down slowly and when I saw a cheap flop of 973 with 56 of spades, I went with it. Sadly, I got called by a set of 9's (can't people fold??!?!??!?!) and missed. Sure, get money in bad and miss? At this table?

"OK," I said to myself. "Last try." Twenty more red chips came my way. Mrs_Blood was getting hungry, not having eaten in a while, but slightly satiated by her $100 in profit. "Just a little bit longer?" She agreed. She's a keeper.

I called a raise in position with 96d, not necessarily strong poker, but the guy who raised was just giving money away. He was so horrifically bad, I can easily say that he was the worst player I've ever played against in a long time.

When the flop came 922, he pushed. Folded to me, I read him for crap and called. Everyone else folded and he flipped up T4o. He was proud. "I just need a ten," he said.

Turn 4.

River 10.

I was now officially on tilt. Just as I raised my beer to my mouth to take a sip, a young Asian kid who had been seated to my right got up to change seats at the table. He collided with my elbow, forcing me to spill my beer.

All over myself.

The table continued to laugh. That's right, I said "continued." You see, they had been laughing at the horrendous play and suckout of the previous hand.

As the beer soaked through my shirt and shorts, I wondered to myself who I would have to kill to make me feel better. Sadly, well maybe not, the young kid apologized profusely, so I couldn't kill him. The dealer? No. The shuffle machines buried in the table were to blame at this point. The asswipe across from me who was giving chips away? No. I still had a half of a buy-in.

Without anyone to maim or kill, I inadvertently limped UTG with my hand thinking I was the big blind. Someone in middle position raised to $12, asswipe called and I finally looked down at my two cards.

AJc. Fuck it. All-in.

The original raiser folded and as the laughter died down finally, asswipe said, "I'll give you your chips back," and called.

QJo. I didn't stand a chance.

The flop was all hearts. Turn was a black King. River was a 4th heart and his Queen of hearts took down the pot. More laughter.

Finally, I left the table. I was beaten. I went over to Mrs_Blood's table and she was running the show. She was all too happy to cash out with her profit for the evening, getting congratulated by the rest of the table on some unexpected good play on her part. I was proud of her. It was her day, not mine. She was gracious enough to listen to me whine about my beats (just as did you oh fine reader) and still smile at the end of it all.

I'll always be glad to lose in poker if it means a member of my immediate family can have good fortune. If that's the trade off I make in life, then so be it. Really, how can I complain with the wife and the kids I've got greeting me at the door each day? It would be silly to take bad poker beats to heart.

Tomorrow is another day. And I'm still on vacation. Because everyone is happy, so am I.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Vay K

I'll be heading out soon for the annual family vacation, so posting will be minimalistic between now and my return.

Not much going on other than spending a great 4th at TheMark's who yet again put together a very respectable fireworks show on his front lawn. I made salsa, MrsAllIn made everything else, so you know the food was great.

Good luck to all the WSOP Main Event coverage folks, I guess the light at the end of the tunnel may not be that freight train coming your way. Apologies to James Hetfield.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Decision Trees

Does every poker hand you ever play have a winnable solution? Is it possible that no matter what cards you're dealt, no matter in what position you act, that there is a possible set of actions that can be taken such that you can win the hand? I say "can" rather than "will" because on some occasions you can do everything correctly and still lose. But ignore that for a moment, just think about the things you can control. Even such silly hands like pushing pre-flop with garbage to win some dead money in the pot is still a solution to the situation of that particular hand. Granted, such single-incident solutions may have long term negative expected value in cases where you're wrong. I think that's where player reads come in to play. The reads are additional data that take you from an average situation to the particular situation at hand.

Here's an example hand where I really think I did everything humanly possible to put myself in a winnable situation.

I was in middle position in a 1/2NL cash game with AJo and open-raised to what is now considered a quite standard $12. One player in late position flat called and the action was on the small blind. The small blind was short-stacked and gave off the body language of "If I'm calling this raise, I might as well put the rest of my chips in the pot too while I'm at it." Those of you who are live cash game veterans probably know exactly what I mean. The small blind pushed for about $47 in total.

The big blind was next to act. He looked at his hand and hesitated. The look on his face was one of, "Hmmmm... I have a decently strong hand, but I can't interpret the action thus far, so as a weak player, I'll just smooth call right now." Those of you who are live cash game veterans probably know exactly what I mean.

The action was back on me.

I had the benefit of being the first raiser into the pot, so nobody knew yet for sure if I was just raising with a medium strength or a premium strength holding. I felt that the flat caller behind me would fold to a re-raise on my part. The question was, could I make the big blind fold. His hesitation showed weakness and I saw it, loud and clear.

I decided to re-raise another $100 on top of the $47 that both blinds had already put out there. But Blood, you're thinking, you have AJo. Not even suited. Yes, I know all that, but at this point in the hand, I felt that my reads were strong enough such that I could play the hand more strongly and setup a better chance to win. A better chance than flat calling would give me. And of course, a much better chance than folding gave me. LDO. In an online game, I'd fold immediately. My hand is weak, especially from early position. But we're live. With more data. Data that takes us away from the "average" poker hand to this unique instance of a poker hand.

The LP flat caller mucked. With the SB already all-in, it was back to the BB. And after agonizing even more, finally folded his AQo face up. My plan worked. It was really a simple isolation move on my part, made more advantageous by my reads on the other players. In fact, I was now favored to win as I was up against K9s. I had a 60% chance to win a pot in which I put in less than 33% equity.

So the question is, does EVERY hand you get dealt offer such an opportunity. The answer, very likely, is no. But sometimes, you may find yourself in a hand wherein upon first glance you're thinking about folding. However, sometimes a situation arises wherein you can dictate much of the action and find the proper path to a solution that wasn't readily apparent on first glance.