Friday, December 30, 2005

Going Amateur

Playing poker for a living was fun while it lasted, but I'm glad that eight-month experiment has come to an end.

Poker is tiring, especially when you depend on it just to get by. You have to play every day, even if you don't want to. I still have a lot of fun playing poker, but I think many of the cliches about poker being a grind are also true.

I didn't feel like I had a hard time dealing with the pressure of having to make money (or else get broke). But I still didn't like feeling like I had to produce on most days. When I was losing, I cut back on spending. When I was winning, I was more likely to be a little less frugal. This isn't the best way to handle a bankroll, but I told myself I wanted to have fun while living off poker, so I felt like it was worth it when times were good.

I worry a little bit that my play will actually decline once I'm working a real job (next week!). Because there will be less pressure, I may not force myself to study and practice as dillegently. I'll certainly have a lot less poker time. And I won't have the huge advantage that I now enjoy of being able to be fresh any time I sit down at the tables. Work is tiring, and that could erode my poker game.

But then again, I'll be more active and won't have to worry about poker as much. That may outweigh the disadvantages.

One of the main reasons I'll be happy to not be playing poker with real-life money is that I won't feel like such a bum. Poker is a selfish game meant for self-enrichment. It doesn't do anybody any good except for the person playing. And I've been living in my parents' basement for the last six months, and that it way too long. Way too long.

Now it's time to rebuild the bankroll rather than spend it! That makes me happy -- new limits, new fish and new profits.

Empire Bonus: 100 percent to $100 on Jan. 1 and Jan. 2

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Donk Hand of the Day

Button is 47/4/2. He goes to showdown about 30 percent of the time.
Is this river bet by me a total donkey move? It only needs to work one in seven times for me to get paid ...

PokerRoom 5/10 Hold'em (5 handed) FTR converter on

Preflop: Hero is UTG with Ac, Jd.

Hero raises, 1 fold, Button calls, 2 folds.

Flop: (5.50 SB) Kd, 5s, 2s (2 players)

Hero bets, Button calls.

Turn: (3.75 BB) Qd (2 players)

Hero bets, Button calls.

River: (5.75 BB) 4c (2 players)

Hero bets, Button calls.

Final Pot: 7.75 BB

Yahtzee! Poker

It's almost too good to be true -- the combination of both Texas Hold 'em and Yahtzee, also known as The Best Game Ever Made. Don't mess with Yahtzee. The Dice Gods will mess you up.

Sham got me Yahtzee Hold 'em (or whatever the hell it's actually called) for Christmas. It's a perfect gift for me.

Matt, Brandie, Marie and I tried out Yahtzee Hold 'em on Friday night. The rules of the game are just like you'd imagine. Each person has a starting chip stack, and it's a 10/20 limit game. There are 20 dice, five of each color. Each color represents a suit. The dealer gives each player two "hole" dice, which are like their down cards in hold 'em. Then three dice are rolled as a "flop," one more for the turn and a final die for the river. Then you make the best five-dice hand, and the winner collects the pot.

The hand values are a little bit screwy. The best hand is a Yahtzee Flush, which is all the same number on all the same colored dice. A straight beats a full house because it's harder to get in this game. All the hand values are printed out in the rules.

The thing that surprised me most about the game is that it's so identical to poker. Really, the rules are pretty much self-explanatory.

I want to figure out the odds better. Because each die only has six sides, the possibilities of making a good hand are much more limited. No starting hand has significantly more preflop value than any other because just about everything is dependent on the flop. That's when your hand is truly defined and when you can start to really bet. My impression was that preflop bets and raises in Yahtzee Hold 'em are mostly a wasted effort. For that reason, the betting feels a little bit like stud games, where you want to bet when the betting limits go up so that you can punish your opponents and maximize your chance of winning the hand.

It's weird to me to think of dice rolls in terms of outs. I don't know if that even really works because any die could hit a one through six on any roll. There is not such a limited supply of each card type. For example, with 20 dice, you could roll a one on each die if you tried long enough. In a regular deck, there are only four Aces.

Anyways, we didn't play for too long. After we got the hang of the game, we boosted up the betting limits to 10/20 no limit. That brought some action!

It's hard for me to say how much I actually like the game itself. It's certainly interesting, but it's hard to gauge how engaging it will be on a second or third try. I think I'll like it a lot more if I can find people to put real money on the line instead of just playing for chips!

The Dice Gods love the action.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Son of Marknet

I've played poker on just about every holiday. I always figure that there will be tons of fish who ate too much food, got fed up with relatives and drank too much beer before deciding to play poker. Sometimes playing on holidays works out, other times it feels like a wasted effort.

But I must say, Christmas Eve has got to be one of the best times to play poker. I logged in several times throughout the day, and I repeatedly saw incredibly fishy moves at $100 buy-in no limit games. People called me down with weak pairs, or they called large preflop bets in hopes of catching a miracle flop. Sure, fish do silly things all the time, but Saturday seemed to be an extreme example of holiday merriment spread around from the fish to the sharks.

Thanksgiving week I was much less lucky. I got my ass handed to me.

I can't say whether it's perception or reality that holidays are a better time to play online poker. There are always plenty of fish to be found at the tables. And even if the games are good, anyone could run into a bad run of cards and lose money. Whatever.

In other news, I bought a new laptop in celebration of getting my new Hawaii job! I decided to name it Junior because my desktop computer (which is currently not working) is the Godfather of computers. That one is named Marknet. So far, Junior is making the family proud. This laptop is a Toshiba with a 2.0 Ghz Celeron M processor, 1 GB of RAM and 100 GB of hard drive space. It's kicking ass. It's a lot of fun to set up a new computer and get it just the way you want it. Soon, all my poker programs will be installed, and then the fish will pay.

They will pay (again)!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Poker is Funny

Empire came back to town, so it was a good time for a poker reunion.

Empire, known for his tendency to accumulate vast oil fields worth of white chips (and sometimes loose them too), is back for Christmas. We gathered at Drew's house, which was also fun because it was his first day back home after being bed-ridden with a broken ankle.

Hijinks ensued. I tried to play every hand, but people kept raising! Those bastards!

I lost two of my buy-ins by going all-in with AJs and KTo. D'oh. My best hand was pocket Aces. I had told myself I would go all-in if I were dealt either AA or 72, so I felt committed. I pushed, but no one called. Double d'oh. I thought surely by then my table image would have encouraged at least one caller -- probably Drew, Ron or Matt. Come on, guys.

I forget most of the rest of what happened. I know that I had a few beers and then ate a lot of Chinese food, after which I ended up lying on the floor as I tried to digest. I then remember having to crawl to the table to see my hand, but my full stomach wasn't too happy about that, so I laid down again afterward.

There was usually at least one all-in bet every hand, so there was no lack of action.

Congratulations to Doug and Drew for taking home the most money in the poker Christmas special. Congratulations to me for being the biggest donor. Man, I really went through those buy-ins pretty quickly! It was well worth it. Yay, party day!

Happy holidays.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


I remember reading somewhere more than a year ago that poker changes you. Poker alters your outlook on life, your perspective on the value of money and your decision-making.

I'm sure it's different for everyone, but poker -- like everything in life -- becomes a part of what you are. There's no denying that it has an impact.

For me, there are plenty of benefits. Because I play poker, I have a better perspective on the expected value of life. When it comes to making a decision, like asking a girl out or taking a chance -- I think of the costs and benefits, and I make the most +EV decision. Many times, there really is so little to lose and so much to gain that it makes sense to pursue a long shot because you just might succeed.

As for the value of money, I'm not one of those players who thinks that you have to forget about the real-world importance of the money once it's in the form of chips. Of course, to some extent it's important to disregard how many pizzas or what kind of bills you could pay with the money you're gambling with. But I believe that if you treat chips only as pieces in a game, then you run the risk of playing poorly because you don't care about making the right decision. Dealing with the pressure of playing with your own money is a large part of the game, and making optimal decisions for the good of the bottom line is what the game is all about.

Understanding of variance is another perpective-changing lesson of poker. Sometimes the cards run good, sometimes they run bad, but if you keep making the correct choices, you will come out on top.

There are plenty of pitfalls as well -- the potential of gambling addiction, the chance that you will lose, the time away from real life that you spend at a poker table instead.

As long as the pot odds remain in my favor though, I plan to keep playing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I got a job!

I'm moving from Atlanta to Hawaii to take a news reporting job in Honolulu. I will start Jan. 5, which means I only have a couple more weeks of unemployment to enjoy before I go back to the real world.

I've enjoyed my time as a semi-pro, living off a relatively small bankroll since April. I'm always grateful that poker enabled me to travel so much and have a lot of fun in between jobs.

But now I find it's a huge relief to be able to go back to working. Poker is fun and profitable, but it's not very fulfilling work. I get great pleasure out of busting fish, but it's more the pleasure of skydiving than of accomplishing anything significant.

I'm really excited about giving up the life of a poker-playing bum who lives with his parents. I'll get health benefits. I'll have my own apartment. I'll have a chance (a small chance) of picking up girls. I'll be able to rebuild my bankroll and play the games I want. I can finally buy a laptop (I'm thinking of hitting up the after-Christmas sales).

And, of course, I get to live and work in Hawaii. Flights to Cali and Vegas are cheap, and the weather will be warm all the time.

Woo! My days living off of poker money are over! Now poker will be more like a freeroll again -- playing with money I've already won and saving for the future.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Heads-Up Tourney

Many of my Atlanta poker crowd got together this weekend for the first inaugural Christmas holiday heads-up hold 'em tournament. It was awesome!

We made the tournament double elimination, with a winners bracket and a losers bracket. Matches were designed to last up to an hour each, and three (out of eight) players would place.

I was glad to have a heads-up tournament, because it really is an interesting form of poker that isn't played often enough. Daniel made a good point when he said that it's a very pure form of poker, in that you have all the weapons at your disposal. You can check-raise bluff, limp-raise, open limp, bluff on no streets or four, change gears and read your opponent. I highly recommend a tournament like this -- the action is intense and you really get to know each of your opponents.

I drew the brackets at random. Daniel and I were both disappointed that we had to play each other in the first round. It would have been much more fun to meet him in the finals! It was a good match -- probably the closest match of the evening. Our stacks were very close most of the time. Daniel told me later that he was surprised I wasn't playing looser. But I had told myself at the beginning of the tournament that it would be OK to play a lot of hands, but I didn't want to commit all my chips unless I felt it was necessary.

I believe it was the first hand of the tournament when I held 52 offsuit and called the blind. The flop came 9-2-2. We both bet at the pot, but somehow I was able to get away from the hand. Daniel showed down 9-2 for a flopped boat.

Our match came down to the final hand, when the blinds escalated to 2,000/4,000 (our starting stack sizes were 20,000 each). We both went all-in. I held pocket 10s and Daniel had AJ. I won the race, but Daniel played well and he could have easily won the match.

I faced my brother, Michael, in the second round. I don't remember much of what happened. He played better than I expected, but I was able to outmaneuver him until his stack had deminished.

For the finals of the winner's bracket, I had to take on Drew. Drew always throws me because he likes to play wild starting hands, and he's not at all afraid to bet out or check-raise his draws.

I made a large all-in bluff with 10-3 offsuit, which he called with a pair of Queens. He later said he wasn't paying that close attention, and he didn't realize there was a pair on the board. But I got it back with two suckouts. First I went all in with pocket 8s vs. pocket Qs, and I caught an 8 on the flop. Then I flopped a straight to Drew's flopped flush. We both got all-in on the turn, but I caught a fourth suited card on the river to give me a slightly higher flush.

Drew moved to the losers bracket, where he took care of Sham in the first hand. That meant I had no time to relax before our rematch. I needed to win one; Drew needed to win two in a row.

I got all in with QQ, which Drew called with AQ. He caught an Ace on the flop, and we headed to the final game.

I really have to commend Drew for his aggressive play in the finals. He pushed a lot of hands, and I couldn't bring myself to call with second pair without any redraws. Drew whittled away at my stack until I felt like I had to make a move at the end of the 500/1,000 blind level. I pushed with KJ offsuit preflop, and he called with J9. My hand held up.

A few hands later, I had finally gotten my stack to the point where I didn't necessarily have to push preflop. I raised with AJ, and Drew called. The flop brought K-J-x. I pushed all-in, Drew called with K7 for top pair, and it was all over. Drew won!

I had never played a heads-up tournament before, and I was glad that it lived up to my hopes. You have to constantly keep your head in the game. At the end, both Drew and I were mentally exhausted.

That didn't matter much though -- we weren't too tired that we couldn't play a full ring game for a few hours!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Back in Business

I'm back from my European vacation, which was awesome. I got to play a small amount of poker, and my impression is that the stereotypes of loose, rich, crazy European poker players is absolutely true. If you ever get a chance to play poker at the casinos over there, you should jump at the opportunity. They're all characters.

Now it's time to get back to the real work of earning poker money and planning for the future job-wise.

One concept I've been spending some time with is the idea of betting out a hand rather than check-calling or check-raising on the flop. Traditionally, my strategy has been fairly simple: I usually bet out two pair or better on the flop because I want to encourage callers and raisers. I want to build a pot. If I have top pair or second pair combined with a draw, I strong consider check-raising.

I think that's all well and good for the most part. But poker isn't about generalizations. Poker is about making the best possible move at the time. What got me thinking about this was this Card Player magazine column.

In the Card Player example, betting out the hand is appropriate for many reasons -- the straight draw, the backdoor flush possibility, the overcard. A hand with that much potential can be treated as a strong hand.

Additionally, betting out puts a lot of pressure on other players with lesser draws or naked overcards. In the example above, a bet puts four bets in the pot. It's an easy call for anyone with a flush or a straight draw, but any lesser draw should fold.

I'm just babbling here. The point is that betting out a hand -- especially against two or fewer opponents in a smallish pot -- can force your opponents to make incorrect calls that aren't justified by the odds. When your opponents make incorrect moves, you win.

Here are some links that I've found useful recently:
The Law School Dropout's Poker Blog
Getting Back to Shorthanded, from PokerSweetHome
Shorthanded Play, from Sound of a Suckout
The Twelve Commandments Of Short-Handed LHE, from the Bad Beat Blog

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I'm Off!

I'm going on a vacation to Europe for a few days, so I won't be updating the blog regularly. I hope to find some games if I have any free time, and if so, I'll definitely post about them.

Good luck!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bluffing with the Best Hand

There are a few milestone moments in limit poker when you figure out a new concept and start making more money off of it. I remember about a year ago when I first started using the concept of hand protection. Then came rampant check-raising, ram-and-jam tactics and shorthanded play.

I found shorthanded play to be especially valuable because you could get in a large number of hands in crucial situations -- playing hands from middle position, defending hands from the blinds, manipulating pot odds to your liking.

I always thought one of my problems in shorthanded play was that I often kept betting into calling stations. I tried to tell myself the mantra, "Don't bluff a calling station."

But it ain't bluffin' if you got the best hand. And sometimes, King high is the best hand -- especially against a player that's so loose he'll call with anything.

Ed Miller wrote an excellent article on the subject in this month's 2+2 Magazine.

It has motivated me to go back and play some of those shorthanded games to get some practice while I'm burning bonuses and waiting for money to arrive back at the U.S.S. Neteller. It'll be fun! I like no limit games, but I miss shorthanded limit action, which is essential for poker development. I also recently realized that I was playing a little too loosely in these short games -- a few posters on 2+2 said that a 22 percent VP$IP is about right. See you at the $3/$6 and $5/$10 tables on Party.

Monday, December 05, 2005


I'm frequently reminded of Jennifer Harmon, who has said in interviews that her longest losing streak lasted six months. She said a poker player can be measured more by the times when things are going badly than when they are going well.

I have been winning small amounts recently, and I've also tried to keep Harmon's words in mind. Bad runs compound themselves when ego and emotions get involved. I'm guilty of stubbornness and a refusal to accept realities until some time has passed.

What I realize now is that while aggression is a fundamental trait for a successful poker player, it needs to be closely moderated to ensure that it doesn't get out of hand. When I had the worst run of my poker career at $15/$30 limit hold 'em during Thanksgiving week, I was trying to force good hands beyond their value. I still believe that a fair portion of my losses were due to bad luck, but I could have done better.

I attempted more blind steals from two off the button. I tried more semibluff raises, only to miss and then get called down. In short, I lost patience waiting for good hands and went too far with medium-strength hands. I became the kind of overplayer that I'm always trying to value bet. Instead, I was the one being check-raised on the river.

Specifically, I want to analyze a few things about my game to find out whether they were effective, or if I was just spewing chips. I like to tell myself that aggression is not a crime, but sometimes it is a waste.

I need to find out whether my isolation raises preflop show a greater expected value than if I had simply called a limp bet. Do I show a greater profit with Axs from late position when I raise a limper immediately to my right or if I limp?

I've also noticed that I show a greater profit from early position than from middle position. It seems unnatural that this would be the case. I want to examine the statistics I have on other winning players to see if their positional profits exhibit the same pattern. Even if they do, I think there's room for me to tighten up from middle position and perhaps loosen up from late position.

For now, though, it's time to get more free money through bonus whoring! I recently finished the Poker Players Alliance bonus at Party Poker, and I'm about halfway through the Eurobet 100 percent matching bonus up to $600. Now I'm going to try out the bet365 monthly bonuses (which are easy to clear and don't require a deposit). Then it will be back to Party for an account-specific bonus.

All this bonus money is nice. I just wish the bonuses would keep up with my life expenses! I need a job.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Turning the Radar Off

Warning: I'm about to draw conclusions based on a small sample size.

That said, I've been finding that I win more in no limit games when the radar is turned off. When I let my PokerTracker headgear off and play my normal tight-aggressive game, I've been doing well.

And it's fun. It's nice to abandon the statistics and the computer-generated personality profiles of all my favorite fish. I like looking at my opponents as a mass of faceless fish who I don't even need information on.

Now, the most likely reason for this limited success without my data is that I play similarly with or without my real-time stats (I use PokerAce HUD, but Gametime+ and PlayerView.Net are also good programs). But I wonder if perhaps the statistical overlay actually hurt my game, in that I made decisions based on limited information.

Maybe you need more hands on file before you can reach a conclusion about no limit players. It could be that because there is generally less action on the turn and river in no limit games than in limit games, it takes a longer time to gather accurate information for statistical categories like Went to Showdown Percentage and Aggression Factor.

Don't get me wrong -- I've had a lot of success with making reads and acting on them based on the data. It's a very valuable tool, especially in limit hold 'em. But I'm not sure how useful that information is in the no limit hold 'em game.

For now, though, I'm happy to be making money while flying off the grid.

Friday, December 02, 2005


Am I starting to get pissed off? You're damn right I am.

How could anyone not get frustrated when they're on a streak like this? It's one thing if you suck at poker and you lose, it's another thing when this kind of bad run comes out of nowhere, you're making optimal decisions and you quit playing when you start to tilt.

I have a strong faith in my game, so in reality I have nothing at all to worry about. If I know that I'm a winning player, then I can come to the logical conclusion that the cards will turn around after I play enough hands. Whatever enough is.

It would be a lot easier if I were a poker playing computer that didn't care about losing. But that's the thing. I do care about losing, even if it's a relatively small amount because I've stepped down to $100 buy-in no limit games for now.

Maybe it's a leak that I hate losing so much. But I also think it's a strength because that competitive spirit always forces me to analyze my game and play even smarter the next time.

There's no point in recounting bad beat stories. I hope there is a point in venting my frustration.

I want to bust each and every one of these fish. I want to leave them with no money at all. I don't care if it is good for the poker economy that the fish get lucky. From my perspective, the best thing would be for me to win every game, every time. What do I care for the individual fishes? They can go back to their everyday jobs and then reload their accounts so I can bust them again.

Poker is fun, but it's also a brutal game. I'm starting to think that the only correct attitude to have is one of unrelentless aggression and no mercy. There's plenty of bitching in poker, but very little room for sympathy.

So screw you, fish. I'm coming for you.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Man, I'm damn glad November is over! It was definitely my worst month of poker so far, but I'm not too down about it. Shit happens, and then you recover.

I'm looking forward to December. It should be fun to do some bonus whoring (like the Poker Players Alliance bonus at Party), and I get to take a vacation to Europe next week! I've never been to Europe, so I'm really looking forward to it. Maybe I can find some tournament or side game action.

Over the next few days, I should learn whether I got the job I want. If I did get it, I can go out and buy a laptop, which would be very convenient to have while on my travels. If I didn't get the job, I have a backup plan.

So I'm feeling good. The games are still plenty fishy. My bankroll isn't where I want it to be, but it's still OK. Several friends will be in town for Christmas, and then I'll be off to another new city somewhere. I'll write about where that will be as soon as I know.

Good luck, and have a happy holiday season.