Monday, January 30, 2006


Today was moving day, and moving always sucks. There's simply no way around it.

I woke up feeling like I was on tilt -- so grumpy, likely because of the dread at all the tasks ahead of me.

I went to Costco, but their beds, although on sale, were still a bit more expensive than I'd like to pay. I found some heavy-duty measuring tape and didn't bother to look at the price till I was at the cash register. It cost $21! Whatever.

So then I got directions to a moving place and rented a truck. I found a mattress store, but they said their warehouse was closed on Sunday, but they'd have a mismatched bed and box spring ready on Monday. Great. Now I had rented a truck that I couldn't use, and I couldn't buy a bed, which was the one task I wanted to accomplish. I went ahead and ordered the bed and told them to deliver it to my apartment.

Then I went to look at carpet, but I hadn't been back to the apartment to figure out its dimensions with my $21 measuring tape. What a waste of time.

I drove to the Salvation Army to see if they had any decent used furniture, but they were closed. Shit.

My truck was still empty, so I decided to get some lunch at Carl's Jr. As I was pulling into a space, I scraped against this van with a couple and their child inside. I'm such a dumbass. The damage to the truck was barely noticeable, but the van had been dented and the paint scraped. The couple was very nice though, and the guy said his job was to fix these kinds of damages. He asked for $100 to cover the costs of paint and damages, and I was happy to pay him cash.

By the time I got inside Carl's Jr., I knew what I wanted: some hamburger with bacon on it. Mmm, Western Bacon Cheeseburger.

Back on the road. I drove around aimlessly looking for this used appliances place that this guy at my new bank had recommended. I couldn't find it, so I asked some guys on the street for directions.

Long story short, this is when my fortune turned around. I got a deal on a TV, computer desk, small entertainment center and two chairs. A guy on the street helped me carry the computer desk into my apartment when no one else would.

I found some carpet just before the place closed, and the grumpy carpet cutter was nice enough to divide it into the sizes I needed.

When I returned the truck, I found out there was a dent in the side from my mishap. I came clean, and the guy told me it would cost a ton -- I hadn't paid for insurance. But then the guy let me off scot free.

Very lucky! At every point in my day, the kindness of strangers and fortunate coincidences guided my steps. The accident, the nice couple, the guys in the street, the truck rental guy, the used appliances salesman -- I'm really thankful to all these strangers for helping me make my move. Even the mattress warehouse being closed turned out well because I would have had a hard time carrying the bed from the truck to my apartment without assistance.

Of course, I had to come home and win some money in poker after all that!

These generosities encourage me to try and do better to pass on the positive vibes. If you see someone who needs a little help, take a few minutes to do some good.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Full credit goes to Doug Gross.


Three cavemen are sitting around a fire playing poker. After a little time passes, a big pot comes up. One caveman raises, the next re-raises, the third re-raises and so on until they're all-in.

The first caveman flips up his cards and says, "Beat this! Pocket Aces."

He starts to drag in the pot until the second caveman stops him.

"Not so fast," says the second caveman. "I've got three of a kind."

He shows a set of fives and reaches to pull in the pot.

"Wait just a minute there," says the third caveman. "I've got a wheel."

The two other cavemen look at each other and ask:

"What the fuck is a wheel?"

Friday, January 27, 2006

Ups and downs

A few months ago, a friend of mine had a party because she was leaving Atlanta. Most of the poker crew was there, and a few people that I hadn't played with in ages. I was trying to keep a poker game from breaking out because that would have upset some of the non-poker people at the party. Got to keep the fish happy.

I ran into Bobby, who couldn't believe that I had been winning in poker since I last saw him about a year before.

"No one ever really wins," he said. "It's all just ups and downs."

Heh. It made me smirk.

But seriously, while good players win and bad players lose, the role of luck in poker is difficult to understand. I feel like I have a decent grasp of what kinds of streaks I can expect, but I couldn't tell you the formula for variance (OK, I looked it up. But it didn't make any sense to me. Something to do with sigma and a cursive o).

A recent post on 2+2 talked about how severe the downswings can be.

Basically, it seems like it's entirely possible for an otherwise winning player to run bad for 100,000 hands or more.

OK, fine.

But 100,000 hands is a lot of hands. That would be trying on my patience if I had a downswing that lasted that long.

Fortunately, the law of averages also applies to winrate (whatever winrate really is). If I can average 1.5 to 2 big bets per 100 hands, that's some decent bank in the long run. And let's not forget about rakeback, which in large part can compensate for bad runs and pad winning streaks. Rakeback is pretty steady earn.

So there.

Right now, I'm trying to come to terms with variance is shorthanded play at $5/$10 limit, which is the game I've been playing for the last month or so. I'm up, but only by a few hundred.

What causes higher variance in shorthanded games? My thinking is that variance is higher because it's correct to play a wider range of hands preflop because there are fewer opponents; therefore, looser play is correct and it's also correct to look these people up at showdown. The wider hand ranges create higher variance. That's my theory.

But here's the rub: Everything else being equal (which it isn't, but work with me), what's the point in playing shorthanded vs. full ring? Both games have plenty of fish if you're selective about what games you join.

So why play short? Personal preference? An edge in postflop play?

Even if there is an advantage in profitability in shorthanded games because of the extreme fishiness, is it worth it? Or do the higher swings cancel out any perceived benefit?

If you have any thoughts, please post comments.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Check-raising, predestination, human behavior

This will be one of those rambling, random posts with some scattered ideas ...

First, check-raising. It's great. It really freaks players out, and it traps them into making a difficult decision unless they hold the nuts. Otherwise, the player must make a touch choice about whether to fold, call or raise.

Easy enough. But what does check-raising really do? Is it for value, or is it to protect your hand? My thinking is that it's a bit of both. It usually is enough to get the hand heads-up, but you're also investing an extra bet into the pot on that gamble. Of course, the hope is that you have the best hand at the time and your move adds value to the pot while you hold a hand that you know is likely ahead.

Then again, check-raising is also appropriate when you have a potential underdog hand as low as second or third pair. My understanding is that this play works when you are against an aggressive player who you have beat, when the pot is large and the check-raise is worth it in the hopes you will win, or when you get lucky and improve your hand on the turn or river.

I believe in check-raising liberally. It's consequences, though, are sometimes contradictory because you're at times hoping to win with a hand that isn't currently best while also adding value to the pot. Unless you hold a strong hand and the check-raise is purely for value, it seems like this move is at its core a semi-bluff. It works best when you're bluffing with the best hand, but it's also valuable many other times.


This is fun. Try it. It's even poker-related: IP Spotting


I was impressed by some of the quotes of Gary Carson, which I will repeat here from Iggy's blog which were taken from a poker forum.

On stop-loss strategies:

"Protecting your win is something that people do to satisfy a deviant emotional need. It has nothing to do with a stop loss."

On irrational behavior:

"Irrational is not stupid. It's actually normal human behavior. Don't they teach you anything in that business school?"

I think that one is important because it goes to the heart of every fish's behavior. Why do smart people play bad poker? Why do people who know better make bad moves? The reason is that humans are far from purely rational beings. There are outside impulses and contradictory logic at play, and rarely is that so obvious than in poker. People play poorly because they have a hunch, because they are experimenting, because they are on tilt.

"People who are grown up realize that sometimes they aren't doing things perfectly and sometimes they aren't doing things perfectly and they don't have perfect judgment about that. Only children harbor the illusion that they are indestructible."

Children ... and crazy people ... and fish ... and Superman.

I think I want to write a comic book based on the premise that Superman is an immature bastard because he actually is indestructible, while Batman is a pervert who satisfies his sexual fantasies by wearing a mask and beating up criminals. Same characters, just more honest motives.


I always have difficulties coming to terms with shitty players and variance. How should I objectively feel about the nature of poker? Should I be happy when I lose to a longshot draw, knowing that that's what keeps the donkeys playing? Is that even realistic?

Recently I've tried to have it both ways. It's unreasonable to be satisfied with losses while they're happening, whether or not you know they're for the "greater good" of the poker economy in the long run. It doesn't make sense for me to be happy about losing in the short term even if I know I've made money in the theoretical sense.

But it's much easier for me to take the philosophical perspective while I'm away from the tables.

I try to hold both thoughts in mind: hate the way the fish play, but love them for it.

I call it tough love. Or killing them with kindness.


In any type of poker, there are hands that are predestined losers. An easy example is if one person has AA and the other player has KK on a flop of AK2 rainbow. Most of the time, it's nearly impossible for the person with the set of Kings to get away from his hand.

And it won't be cheap.

That's poker. That's fine.

Anyone can play these hands -- anyone can win or lose with them. The difference between winning and losing is in the long run. Rarely are there opportunities to win enormous pots based entirely on savvy. You usually need some cards to back up the big pots.

What's just as important is picking up the one or two scattered bets here and there. There's a lot of dead money on the tables, and it's important to make value bets on the river, check-raises when the situation is right, and folds when you know you're beat. These are the bets that add up in the long run.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

L.A. Bloggers

It was really good to meet some other poker bloggers at the Commerce in L.A. over the weekend. They were all really cool.

First I met glyphic as he was playing in the $20/$40 limit game. Then I walked over and found metsfan in an $200 buy-in no limit game. I sat in another $200 NL game, and absinthe came over and introduced himself. A few minutes later, we met up with change100 and got some dinner at the sports bar in the casino.

It was nothing eventful, but I really liked everyone. I recommend all of their blogs, which have been added to my blogroll already.

Getting to know them a little bit really made me want to go to a blogger event sometime. It sounds like fun.

After dinner, Daniel, glyphic and I sat in a $9/$18 limit game at a table where the jackpot had been hit just a little less than an hour before. Absinthe sat down a little later. It was a pretty typical, loose-passive game.

There was one guy on serious tilt who I won a hand from with King high after he check-raised me on the turn. That was fun.

I only got into a couple of memorable hands with absinthe (again, congrats on winning the tourney). In one big pot, it was 12 bets on the turn, so I figured I had odds to call and see if I could catch my gutshot. What the hell. I had A2, and I think it was a 5 that fell on the river to give me my wheel. I bet it out, middle position players called, and absinthe called. He turned over a turned Jack high flush. I was drawing dead on the turn. Woops.

A little bit later, absinthe limped from early. I looked down at A7o from the cutoff and raised. It was a loose play, but I figured the time was right. I don't know; I should have just folded. One of the blinds called, and absinthe called. An Ace fell on the flop, I bet, absinthe check-raised and the blind folded. I called him to the river.

"I think you've got a better kicker," he said.

"I doubt it," I said.

We both flipped over A7 and split the pot. I'll take that split pot instead of losing any day.

I played all night and couldn't quite get back up to even. It was a great game though, featuring your usual characters at the table. A crazy Mexican woman who Indian gifted a beer, a guy who limped most of the time and talked about our communal gambling problem, a dude who was obvious with his stupid bluffs, a woman who stuffed her face for about an hour while at the table. Good times.

I like games like that because it really is correct to play suited connectors from most positions, as well as small pocket pairs and suited Aces. So you get a lot of action and get a lot of action if you ever hit. That's the trick though. You have to hit every once in a while.

Monday, January 23, 2006

I'm a wimp

The title says it all: I'm a big, fat, no betting, bluff abandoning, value bet missing wimp.

I chickened out so many times on the river this weekend. It's sad.

I guess my excuse is that I was intimidated by the previous action, the river cards, the boards and my fishy opponents. But let's be real here -- those aren't very good excuses. So much of the profit in loose passive games comes from postflop play, and when you miss those big bets, you're sacrificing a lot of your profit.

I held pocket Kings and had bet the whole way. Heads up on the river, an Ace that's a flush card comes. I check. I check-raised with second pair, bet the turn and then comes a non-threatening river card. Check. I hold pocket 8s vs. one aggessor and two callers. I check, the aggressor bets, a passive player calls. I fold the winner. The most common situation where I checked the river was when I feared that I was outkicked. That's probably the best example.

Wimpy wimpy wimpy. If I had bet in any one of these or other situations this weekend in L.A., I would have taken home a few extra big bets. But I didn't.

What I like about live play is that the pace is so much slower than online that you have more time and more sensory data to help make my decisions. I look for tells and keep track of the action better than online. The disadvantage is that I fear some of the crazy suckouts and just check. Weak. So weak.

I'm pretty sure my river play is more confident online than in live play. I wonder, though, if that's a function of the likelihood that I'm facing one opponent rather than several. I figure that my chances of winning are better heads-up.

What I consider less during live play is the value of getting overcalls that are even worse than my second-pair hand on the river.

No check, only bet. I think I need a tattoo on my forehead that says, "Bet the river!!!" But that wouldn't work because only my opponents would be reading it. D'oh.

But the trip was good. Although my play was disappointing at times, I somehow managed to eke out a small profit. I think I can safely attribute that to the fortunate cards I received on Saturday.

It was a lot of fun to play in the $9/$18 game I had heard so much about.

It was even better to meet in person some of the bloggers who I've read before. I'll give them props in another post very soon.

For now, I'm exhausted. I stayed up way too late (um ... all night) playing poker.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

L.A. Rooms

First of all I want to congratulate my friend Owen, who got married on Saturday! It was a fun wedding, and he and Vivian will have great life together. Owen publishes a comic strip called Osiebob, which I highly recommend you check out.

This is my first time in Los Angeles, so I figured I'd briefly write about the card rooms here.

I'm staying at the Commerce Casino, and it's clearly the main event of poker in the city. It's poker room is ginormous. It feels like the Rio at the World Series of Poker -- except for that it's like that all the time, not just during one week of the year. I know that the L.A. Poker Classic is going on, and that accounts for some of the traffic, but my impression is that it's pretty busy anyway. There are just tables upon tables, and the clatter of chips is endless.

My hotel room on the fifth floor is pretty nice, too. I'm kind of surprised.

The quality of the Commerce poker room is OK. It's certainly nothing special. They use these dry erase boards to put people on lists for tables, which I think is a decent way to do it. It's much better than pencil and paper, but it's not as good as a computer or projector screen queue list. I like the feel of the felt and the tables. The customer service is subpar, but I've quickly learned that that's the way life is in L.A. People are grumpy all the time, so deal with it.

The game selection is good, ranging from $1/$2 limit to $9/18 -- my favorite -- and up to high limits. The Commerce seems like the standard for many players.

I really liked the Bike. They have this tiered system, where the lowest level is the lowest limits. Walk up three steps to mid limits, and then three more steps to high limits. The room is smaller, so it feels more like a real poker room than the big mess hall/gym feel that the Commerce gives off. They use projector screens for wait lists, which I really appreciate. I played $6/$12 and $8/$16 there, and the games were decent.

One thing of note: although most poker rooms here have adopted no-cursing-at-the tables rules, they're even less enforced than at other gambling halls. I mean, I don't mind it much unless it gets personal. The problem is that it often does get personal, and the casino staff does nothing about it. It's also heavily annoying that foreign languages are tolerated at the table and everyone thinks it's cool to talk on their cell phones while playing. I blame the card rooms for not having or enforcing rules that would encourage some decency. This place feels like what poker would be like in a world ruled by zombies, where all the huddled masses are herded inside and the rulers of the poker room have no authority. They're just trying to keep everyone in.

I've also been to the Hustler and the Normandie. The Hustler had a pretty nice poker room, but I wish the waitresses were more attractive. The Normandie felt like the Plaza in Vegas. Kind of like a downtown casino that never got out of the early '80s. They both had the same flaws as the every other card room here.

But I'm having a great time. I'm only critical of the casinos because otherwise there would be no point in writing this. The games are good, and I've been fortunate to have some good cards. Even a donkey could play the cards I've been getting, but I've been trying to play them not donkey-like. I'll write more about the game play itself later.

Hope to see some of you tonight. It'll be fun.

Friday, January 20, 2006

L.A. Calling

I'm so ready for my first trip to L.A. I'm going to my friend Owen's wedding on Saturday, and then I plan on playing a lot of poker.

Bring it. I'm prepared to bust as many fish I can as quickly as possible. Now is the time, we have the technology. We must blow up the fish.

I want to win a lot. I haven't been up during my last four trips to live casinos -- Vegas, Tunica, Tampa and Amsterdam. But I haven't been down much either, and I think a lot of times you need some cards. The games sure have been juicy.

From what I hear, the Commerce in L.A. is swarming with tournament fish who have no idea what they're doing. I can't wait to play in the side games!

For anyone out there who wants to meet up, drop me a line. My e-mail address is listed on the right-hand bar of this Web page, or you could just leave me some info in the comments section. I know that it's likely I'll meet up with Alan from Geek and Proud, Ryan from Absithe's Troubles and glyph from StudioGlyphic.

I have Alan's number (I think that's whose number I have), but I don't have contact info for anyone else. Let me know. I'll be at the tables, and it would be really cool to hang out with some of you.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Holland Casino

On a chilly December night in Amsterdam, everyone else went home except for me and a cute Alaskan girl who’s living in Holland with her ice hockey-playing boyfriend.

I suggested we head to Holland Casino. It was about three or four blocks from my hotel. Score.

I found the poker room upstairs. It had two tables open, one $5/$5 no limit and one $10$/20 limit. Sweet.

I get on the limit list and go to play some blackjack with the Alaskan girl. I bankrolled her, which is so freaking cool. She won some money for me -- about 18 euro.

Then we went back upstairs to check on the poker. The list hadn't moved, so I hopped into the no limit game. It's just like everything I've heard about poker in Europe. Stupidly aggressive plays by mid-40s year old guys who wish they could play 10 times higher, so they're just having a good time (and losing). I figured if I got any hand at all, they would call a huge bet and I could win a lot in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, I folded 26 out of the 28 hands I was dealt. Two of the hands (a JT suited and a pocket pair) I limped in with and then folded. Plus the post, that's -35 euro.

I was getting a little impatient. The Alaskan girl was cheering me on, but I didn't want her to get bored. So I stood up and pledged to be back soon.

Saturday night I left earlier so I could go ahead and get on the list for the limit game. But the list was already six deep for the limit game and four deep for the no limit game.

After two hours, I got into the no limit game. I won one big hand off of ATs from the button. I limped into a seven-way pot. Flop came AA5. It was checked to me and I bet 50 euro. The small blind check-raised to 100 euro. I called, thinking that he could have a higher kicker, but I could probably take him on this hand. The turn brought a third Ace to give me quads. He fired 100 euro into the pot, and I called with the nuts. I should have raised, but I figured the only way he'd pay me off is if he had pocket QQ or something that he thought was the best hand. He was a fairly conservative Dutchman compared to the rest. The river brought a blank, I bet 150, he folded. I didn't show.

There was this other character who had the book "Who moved my cheese?" in his jacket pocket. He had a lot of money, and he played about 30 percent of his hands. Pretty much any hand that he hit at all he committed to with all-in bets or calls on the flop or turn. He got lucky a few times, but then he repeatedly busted and rebought with tons of eurobills. It was funny. He was to my right.

But other than the quad Aces hand, the rest of that 2 hour no limit session was slow. I limped with a few suited connectors and pocket pairs into big pots, and I raised with a couple of hands like AK. Nothing came of it, so when they called my name for the limit game, I was down five euro of my 490 euro buy-in (I was going to buy in for 500, but I had to break a 10 to buy a coke).
The rakes were criminal. Twenty euro max rake for the no limit game, and 15 euro max for the limit game. The only consolation was that it was 5 percent of the pot raked (instead of 10 percent), so pots didn't reach the max rake frequently.

I sat at the limit game at 1:30 a.m., so I had an hour and a half before the casino closed at 3 a.m. to make some money at this juicy limit 10/20 table of my dreams. I had watched it a good bit while I was waiting, and it wasn't like the no limit table in terms of aggression. It was total loose-passive play.

I got pocket Kings from the big blind on my second hand, which I raised. Flop came Q high, and I bet and then re-raised. Dude called me down and didn't show. He must have had AQ. He said it wasn't fair that a new guy at the table could get KK on his second hand.

Then I got JJ a few hands later and raised a big field. The flop came QTx with two suited cards of different suits from my Jacks. I bet it out and got called everywhere except for this early position dude who check-raised the field. I figured at worst he was on a flush draw against my backdoor straight draw, so I folded.

Shortly afterward, I raised with AQ and hit a Q high flop. I bet from late position and was called. I bet and was called when a K fell on the turn. Dude bet out the rag on the river, and he showed down AK. Fish played it terribly.

Another time I raised AK in a three-way pot from late. Flop was 833. Both players were very weak, so I bet the flop and the turn. The winning hand was A7, with a 7 that hit on the turn.

Finally I got 107 suited from the big blind. Several people limped, and the flop came J96 rainbow. I checked my gutshot, one blond dude who was pretty quiet bet 10 euro. Everyone folded, and I called -- there were 7 small bets in the pot, but I estimated my implied odds as being very good. The turn brought the 8. I checked, he bet, I check-raised, he reraised, I reraised, he called. I think there was no cap on the betting heads up. The river brought a rag flush card, and I went ahead and bet. He raised me again and showed QT offsuit for the higher straight. Ug.

I ended up down about 257 euro, but it was a good game. It was a lot of fun.

These Europeans are totally on the crypto network.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

In Principle

There's only one hard and fast rule in poker: it depends.

Rules of thumb are situational. Nothing applies against everyone.

Fish are fishy by nature, but that doesn't mean they're fishy in the same ways. Trying to use the same formulas against different kinds of players seems like trying to use the same pickup line over and over again.

Against those 100 percent true believer maniacs last night, I could have made a lot more money had I paid closer attention. Instead, I committed to a single-minded commandment: thou shalt not fold after seeing the flop heads-up against these fools. Now, I don't think it was a bad idea to never fold to players who would bet and raise with any two cards; I do think it was silly to rigidly adhere to my principles without thinking them through depending on the situation at hand.

I'm beginning to think that the reason so many people are losing players in the long run is that they fail to adjust. Perhaps many players find a winning strategy and stick to it. Then when they start to lose, they have a hard time understanding why. Worse still, maybe their adherence to the lessons they've learned through tens of thousands of hands is exactly the reason they keep losing. I don't know if that's what happens. It's juts a theory. It's probably more likely that players simply suck at poker.

The point is that knowing is only half the battle. The other half is execution. Play well.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


I found not one, but two true believers at the table. This is quite a rare occurrence, but somehow I discovered them. Even better, I got seats directly to their left -- at the same time. They both saw the flop 100 percent of the time.

Now, this doesn't predetermine that I will win money. But it certainly does tilt the scales heavily in my favor.

It's an interesting poker experiment in a way because you simply don't see players like that too often at $5/$10 6-max limit -- or any game in general. Don't get me wrong; there are tons of enormous fish out there at all hours of the day. But most of them realize that you shouldn't play every single hand.

How much should I loosen up my starting hand requirements? How high should I raise the pot with second pair on the flop? How often should I call down with King high?

I think I have the answers: not as much as you would think, three bets and the majority of the time. Maybe.

The first of the two whales was the more interesting -- though slightly less profitable -- of the two. After seeing nearly every flop, he went all out with the aggression postflop most of the time. This strategy worked well for him at first. He went up $400 in about a half hour before dropping about $700 over the next 45 minutes. There were two players at the table who kept folding to him. I couldn't understand why. I was calling him down with just about anything and raising pretty liberally. Maybe too liberally. It's hard to know where to draw the line.

The second whale was more typically passive postflop. Against him it was just bet, bet, bet until I met any resistance, than call, call, call. It wasn't so simple against the first fish because I felt I had to raise more to get maximum value out of marginal holdings. That kind of extreme value betting didn't work too effectively (although I still made money), but that's just results-oriented thinking.

I guess the tough part for me is calling down with Ace high and King high all the time. I'm pretty sure that it's profitable in the long run against players who are that loose. But what about when they start check-raising? What about on a coordinated board?

My line has been to never ever fold. I don't know if it's the right line to take. I know I would have made more money tonight if I had folded occasionally against these players. That doesn't mean I should have folded.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Dude, they pissed on your rug

DUDE: I was talking about my rug.
MAUDE: You're not interested in sex?
--The Big Lebowski

They finally caught up with him. They finally got the guy who's been peeing on rugs. That's just wrong, man.

Back to poker...

It looks like Party Poker isn't going to be offering too many deposit bonuses. Instead, they offer a convoluted structure where most players get a pop-up window when they sign in that says if they earn so many Party Points, they'll be rewarded with a certain amount of money.

A lot of people on 2+2 have been complaining about this new structure. But I think it's a pretty good idea -- in principle.

This kind of bonus makes business sense for Party. Reload bonuses only attract bonus whores, who do the bonus and then leave (I've been plenty guilty of this at many sites). Reload bonuses don't bring much profit to the poker site because the bonus amount often approaches the amount of rake paid. The only way the site's investment pays off is if they hold on to the players that are attracted by the bonus, but that never works with the majority of bonus whores.

There are a couple of big problems with this new bonus structure. The main problem is that many of these bonuses are unrealistic. The workthru is simply too high for most players.

The other disadvantage of this system is the lack of transparency. No one seems to have been able to figure out how the bonuses are rewarded and why the corresponding workthru requirements seem inconsistent. Some people received small bonus offers that take a gazillion hands to earn. The formula that Party is using certainly is not public, and customers don't have enough information to know what they need to do to get better bonus offers.

I've been thinking about how realistic my bonus workthru is. I was offered $580 if I can earn 7310 Party Points between Jan. 13 and Jan. 27. As a "silver" member of Party's VIP club, I earn points at 1.5 times the regular rate. At $5/$10 limit, I will earn 12 Party Points for every 20 raked hands played. Two-tabling 6-max games, I play about 100 hands an hour. I don't know how many of those hands are raked, but I would guess most of them are -- maybe 80 or 90?

Anyways, if 80 hands an hour are raked, I am earning 48 Party Points an hour. Multiply that by 1.5, and it will take 100 hours to work off this bonus! If I play two hours a day during the 15-day bonus period, that's only 30 hours. If I play $10/$20 6-max (18 Party Points per 20 raked hands), I will earn 72 party points an hour. Multiply that by 1.5, and even then, it will take 67 hours to clear the bonus.

In other words, it's not doable for me.

I like the idea of linking bonus rewards to time of play, but you have to do some math to figure out if it's even worthwhile to try. In my case -- and I suspect with many players -- it's not possible.

I hope that Party figures out that I won't play any more than usual to try for a bonus that I can't attain. Then, maybe next month, Party will reduce the workthru requirement to something more reasonable.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Tournament of Champions

I got around to watching the Tournament of Champions last night, hoping that I might actually get to see some quality poker. Last year's TOC was fantastic, with single-table action all the way through. I watched it on my plane flight to Santiago, Chile, and Annie Duke took the championship away against Phil Hellmuth.

What impressed me about last year's event was that it seemed like real poker. There weren't too many stupid bluffs, the betting was solid, and the player who played best was the one who won. It was a great table -- Duke, Hellmuth, Doyle Brunson, Howard Lederer, Johnny Chan, Greg Raymer, David Williams and other stars that I love to watch.

This year's event was the opposite. The play was erratic, there were plenty of ridiculous bluffs, and the player who got luckiest was the one who won.

This year started with a field of 119 players, which I don't know really qualifies as a Tournament of Champions. I know almost all of the entrants qualified at World Series of Poker Circuit events, but plenty of them were no-names. If I wanted an all-in fest, I could watch any number of televised poker events.

The broadcast seemed like a lesson in how not to act at a final table. The final four were Mike Matasow, Phil Hellmuth, Hoyt Corkins and Steve Dannennman. It was like a contest of who could be the biggest jerk off. Dannenman lit into Hellmuth for no apparent reason, calling him a punk. Matasow acted like Matasow acts all the time: like a guy who knows how to play poker but puts himself on tilt more than his opponents. Iggy linked to an analysis of Matasow's play in his most recent entry.

Of course, Hellmuth was his normal "poker brat" self. Of the four finalists, I actually liked Hellmuth the most. I know they're all sellout asshats, but I feel like Hellmuth is sincere when he goes on his whiny tirades. I think he can't control himself when he suffers bad beats, and that's why he's fascinating and entertaining me. By comparison, Matasow is trying to be the dumb shit, which just pisses me off. Dannennman isn't as bad, but the moment he abandoned his "I'm just glad to be here" attitude, he lost all his charm. Corkins I didn't mind too much either -- I liked it that he wore earplugs to tune out the inane table talk.

The level of play just wasn't what it should have been. There were way too many limps when even a small bet would have taken down the pot. I felt like no one had ever heard of a continuation bet. The players seemed like they were more afraid of being raised than they were confident in betting the best hand, which is a characteristic more commonly seen in $25 buy-in no limit games on Party Poker than at the final table of the conclusion of the World Series of Poker.

The last hand was also stupid. The announcers tried to make excuses for the players in the last hand, saying that they were really tired, but come on. They both seemed to give up and just went in with whatever. Let's throw our chips in the air and see where they fall.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the TOC couldn't be any higher quality poker than Celebrity Poker. That's what it came down to anyway -- a few "name" players showing off for the cameras rather than playing cards.

I also can't see how this is good for poker at all. It felt like a bad episode of ESPN's soapy poker drama, "Tilt." When the supposed heros of poker are all bad boys, I'm sure I'll see many prima donna imitators the next time I sit at a table. That's what I need -- some 21-year-old cussing at me and telling me I don't have teeny weeny balls. I'll happily take their money, but I won't feel like I'm having fun unless I bust every single one of those bastards.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

New Car

I bought this car today! It's pretty damn nice. It's a '94 Toyota Celica. It only has 66,000 miles, it's a stick, and it runs like a dream. I'm siked! I think this weekend, I'm just going to drive around Oahu and enjoy the island.

I was telling one of my new co-workers yesterday about Internet poker. He said there was a state law in Hawaii prohibitting online gambling, but no one has ever been arrested or prosecuted under it. I told him that I thought the World Trade Organization ruling against the U.S. meant that online gambling was essentially in the clear, but then I decided to research what the WTO ruling actually means.

I found this MSNBC article from March 2004 about the international legal victory by Antigua and Barbuda against the U.S. The ruling said that a U.S. ban on cross-border Internet gambling is a violation of world trade rules. My interpretation of this WTO dispute is that online gambling is essentially legal unless the decision is overturned, despite the Justice Department's opinion that Internet gambling brings a 1961 federal law prohibiting betting across state lines.

Another article said that the U.S. has until this April to come into compliance with the WTO ruling. To do so, it will have to either restructure its federal gambling laws or legitimize gambling from Antigua. I haven't found any information about what course the U.S. plans to take.

For now, at least, it seems like Internet poker is safe. We'll see what happens come April. Even then, though, I'd be highly surprised if there were enforcement against individual citizens. We'll see.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I love shorthanded play

Damn, running well feels good.

I don't even feel like I'm getting good cards, but I guess that's probably a matter of perspective. I do feel like I'm making very good reads. I'm laying down losers and calling down with weak hands that are winning a high percentage of the time.

I think it all boils down to one thing: playing good poker. Forgetting about your own numbers, discarding rote rules, resisting the urge to tilt toward either extreme, maniacal or weak. The only thing that matters is the individual situation. How could you raise that river? How could you lay down that hand? How could you play those cards?

It depends.

I was thinking again about my end-of-November downswing. I've been trying to keep it in mind so that I don't repeat the same mistakes. One mistake was playing while I wasn't feeling well. Now, again, I'm not feeling well, but this time I'm winning. I hope the difference there is that I'm being very conscious of my mental and physical state at all times while I'm playing, and stopping if I feel like I'm starting to lose my focus.

Another mistake I made was that I really tried to push my luck as far as it would go. It worked for a while, but eventually I got bitten. There's a lot to be said for pushing edges, but when you push edges that aren't there, you're just spewing chips. And spewed chips are often just dead money.

Changing topics again: This 2+2 Magazine article got me thinking. Basically, the article argues that there are exactly three kinds of bets: value bets, bluffs and bets that are made because it's better to bet than to check. What impresses me about this concept is that there is little room for informational bets if they don't otherwise affect the bottom line. There is little room for raises on the flop with hands that are likely dominated.

If a bet doesn't directly relate to the expected value of the hand, then it has no purpose. It's just a waste of money.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

See you at the beach

I love arriving in a new, beautiful city and being able to look around without knowing anything about your surroundings. All there is is what you see: the rainbows over the mountains, the girls in bikinis in January, the wind from the ocean. There will be a lot to see and do here in Honolulu, but for now I'm enjoying my ignorance. Hawaii will never feel this new again.

It's great so far. I got here Tuesday night and started work on Thursday. My job sounds like it will be fulfilling, and everyone I've met so far has been nice. Unfortunately, I got a little bit sick Thursday evening, so I've been resting as much as possible ever since then as I try to get better.

At least I can still play poker while laying in bed. :)

The new year has been treating me pretty well so far. I cleared the $600 Eurobet (sucky bet) bonus on Saturday. It took me about five or six weeks playing mostly $100 buy-in no limit, but it was profitable. Eurobet recently switched over to the PokerRoom platform since its split with Party Poker, and I hate the software. Fortunately, the players there suck. And a $600 bonus is pretty damn good! The only other $600 bonus I've ever played was the sign-up bonus at Full Tilt Poker. Both of them took a while to clear, but the payoff is nice.

Now that that is done, I'm going to concentrate on 6-max $5/$10 limit on Party. Shorthanded play is fascinating to me because it seems like the skills involved are crucial to improving your game. Additionally, you get in a lot more hands per hour, so there's plenty of action. I've only been playing two tables at a time, but I think that's good because the games move so fast and I can still keep track of all the action.

It will be sad whenever the new Party Poker platform comes out of beta. Data mining of observed hands will no longer be allowed, which will take away some of the edge that people who use programs like PokerTracker have. But I think it's probably a good move for Party Poker to make -- as long as data can be gathered from hands that a player is involved in, I won't be too upset. And getting rid of passive data mining is good for the fish, which is good for poker.

I've also added a new statistic on my heads-up display while I'm playing. In addition to VP$IP, PFR, Aggression Factor and WSD percentage, I've added the percentage of the time that a player will fold their big blind to a steal attempt. This is useful because some people will never defend their blinds, and that's just dead money for the taking. Other fish will always defend their blinds, so you know it's futile to attempt a steal raise.

I've been trying to decide at what percentage a steal raise is generally effective (100 percent means that the player always folds to a steal raise, 0 percent means they always defend their blind). My guess is that the borderline where you can attempt a steal with any two cards is probably somewhere between 65 percent and 70 percent. Of course, you also have to consider the chance that the small blind will call or re-raise a steal bet from the button. My reasoning is that if it's folded to me on the button and I attempt a steal, I'm risking two small bets to win 1.5 small bets. So the steal needs to be successful 57 percent of the time (2/3.5) to be worthwhile.

The small blind will fold a significant majority of the time, so then it's a matter of your read of the big blind to determine whether a steal is worthwhile. And that's what the data is for. I put this stat in pink. People who are 100 percent pink tend to be quite wimpy!

I'd be interested to hear any comments on steal raises from the button, especially with any two trash cards. How fold-prone does the big blind need to be for this kind of move to be worthwhile?

Also, Daniel wrote a post about some of the cool things I can look forward to doing here. Maybe I'll take up surfing or sea kayaking. Pretty much all of the activities here sound awesome.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I'm Off!

I'm playing $5/$10 shorthanded on Party at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as I wait for my plane flight to leave for Honolulu. The airport charges $7.95 for a 24-hour wireless pass, which is a ripoff. Most people would only use it for an hour or two while they wait for their plane.

But whatever. It's worth it to be able to play poker in the meantime. This laptop is so cool.

After this, the next time I log on to a poker site I will be a resident of Hawaii. I can't wait. The direct flight on Delta is nearly 10 hours long, but because of the five-hour time difference it will still be daylight outside. I leave at noon Atlanta time and get to Honolulu at about 5 p.m.

Then I have Wednesday to try and get myself a little bit organized before starting work on Thursday. I'm ready to go. I never thought I'd be this ready to start a real job, but I'm really looking forward to getting up in the mornings and being productive. I think I must have gone crazy.

It will be fun though. The job sounds great, and everything I hear about the city is positive. Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Time's Up, and Empire Sucks

As far as I'm concerned, Empire Poker can just go ahead and go broke. I was looking forward to playing their New Year's bonus. But then when I logged on, I found that they had credited my account with an unwanted $10 bonus that took 300 hands to clear. I would have to finish clearing that $10 bonus before I could start clearing the $100 bonus, which takes 1,000 hands.

What's worse, this $10 bonus was deposited into my account at 6 a.m. this morning! Empire Poker is being desceptive by putting unsolicited bonus money into its customers' accounts. Empire is hoping that some players won't notice the $10 bonus until it's too late, and then they'll decide to play at Empire for longer than they bargained for. Screw Empire! I'm not going to do either of these bonuses now. Besides being shady, the bonuses aren't really worth my time.

Other players also got the same treatment from Empire, according to this 2+2 thread.

Empire has gone to shit. They had some of the worst customer service long before the split with Party Poker (remember the $500 bonus promotion they took back?). Since the split, the games have gotten a tighter as some players who are too lazy to find rakeback deals elsewhere fight for the table scraps left behind. No thank you. I know Daniel wasn't going to be able to do the bonus anyway because Empire wouldn't respond to his e-mails asking for new login information.

Weren't they supposed to be bought out by either Noble Poker or Party? They should get on with it.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year!

2005 was very successful, and I can only hope that I'll continue to improve my game and make more money in 2006. The year started with me playing poker in my Santiago, Chile apartment. I went on a $1,200 downturn to shrink my bankroll to $800. Then I fought back over the next few weeks at safe $25 buy-in no limit games on Full Tilt, which was a test in patience. Fortunately, it didn't take too long for the bankroll to return to and exceed its previous levels.

I played $3/$6 limit for a couple of months and then tried $5/$10 6-max games. I made a couple of hundred at those shorthanded games, but I decided that $100 buy-in no limit and $3/$6 full ring limit were safer bets.

My bankroll continued to climb. A month or two after moving back to Atlanta in July, I made $5/$10 full ring limit my main game. Then I went on the longest sustained run of my poker career, logging win rates of about 3 BB/100 hands for a couple of months. I moved up to $15/$30 full ring to take a shot at bigger wins, and I did record several big winning sessions of as much as $2,000 in a night. My profits passed $20,000 for the first time.

Then I starting losing. I got a cold Thanksgiving week. The bad beats kept coming, and I thought I was going to scream if another 2-outer hit on the river. I stepped down in limits after a few days, and my bankroll was saved from disaster.

The losing streak didn't end though. I ran card dry, and then I got robbed at my weekly home game. In all, the losing streak cost me about $6,000.

December allowed me to recuperate about $2,000 of that amount to bring my total poker profits to $16,300 -- $14,300 in 2005 and $2,000 in 2004. Because I've been living off my bankroll since April, it has shrunk in size to about $4,000.

It's funny to me that my bankroll has stayed pretty much constant since I moved from Atlanta to Chile and back. I left for Santiago with $4,500 in savings. I had about the same amount when I started spending my bankroll in April. I had the same amount when I came home in July. Now I'm pretty close to the same number as I move to Hawaii on Tuesday. I can't wait to start rebuilding my bankroll!

So yeah, it's been a good year. Even though it could have been better if not for that downswing over Thanksgiving, I can't really complain about success I've had despite those difficulties.

The moral of 2005 is bankroll. Build it, keep track of it and move up in limits as quickly as reasonable and as long as you have the cash to back up the limits you're playing at. I wish I could be playing bigger games right now, but I just don't have the bankroll for them. If you can at all avoid spending money out of your bankroll, you should. Just treat the money as an investment that needs to be grown. It takes money to make money.

I'll be playing $3/$6 and $5/$10 shorthanded limit games to start 2006, as well as a healthy dose of $100 buy-in no limit to pass the time and work off the bonuses. I'll be back at $15/$30 in no time!

Good luck in the New Year!