Tuesday, February 28, 2006

State of the Sites

In several recent days, PokerStars has seen more than 100,000 players on its system at the same time, which is more poker players than on any other poker room in the world.

PokerStars reached the 100,000-players-at-once milestone before Party Poker did, which some people read to mean that Stars is now the biggest site.

That's not true, as far as I can tell. Party Poker still seems to have many more tables running at once than Stars. A thread on 2+2 seemed to indicate that Stars scheduled three 10,000-seat freeroll tournaments closely together, in addition to many multi-table tournaments.

I logged on to PokerStars when it had about 104,000 players. At that time, there were only two full-ring $10/$20 limit games and three $15/$30 limit games. That's truly pathetic. The Poker Room network can do almost as well with less than a tenth as many players.

Stars has done an excellent job of appealing to no limit and tournament players. Stars has much better customer support than Party. Stars has better software than Party.

But Party Poker is still the overall leader. For limit poker, no other site offers anywhere near the game selection you get there. The no limit games are also plentiful and soft.

Don't get me wrong -- Party Poker does suck. Their customer support is terrible, and their recent software upgrade was a slight improvement but a big screw-up for many customers.

In addition, the new software is still clunky and unappealing to look at. It doesn't compare to cleaner sites like Ultimate Bet, Full Tilt and PokerStars. The software still beats many other sites for ease-of-use and utility, but the wait-lists don't work well and sometimes tables randomly slow down.

Party Poker will continue to drop in popularity compared to the other sites.

If not for the great game selection, why would anyone play there? Especially now that Party won't allow passive data mining? Of course, most of the sites don't allow passive data mining, including Poker Stars, but Stars doesn't need to because its customer base is no limit and tournament players, which tend to use tracking software less often.

The rising star is Full Tilt Poker. Full Tilt does allow data mining of observed hands, and the software is much easier to look at. Their customer support is decent, and they offer rakeback without being pricks about it. Their game selection is growing, and they have a wide variety of tournaments that are growing in popularity. Full Tilt's bonuses, which take a little while to clear, are now much better than Party's player points-based bonuses, and Poker Stars only offers re-deposit bonuses rarely.

I haven't played at Full Tilt in nearly a year, but I just deposited some money there to take advantage of their new 50 percent to $300 redeposit bonus. I plan on checking out their full-ring limit games and see if the table conditions are any good.

I'm sure Full Tilt's limit games can't rival Party's for fishiness, but that will change as more players realize that there's less and less reason to stay at Party.

Party had the business savvy to establish the largest player base in the industry, but I don't think Party intends to make the changes it needs to if it's going to hold on to those players.

Monday, February 27, 2006

I'm back

I made it back! I've recovered from my Thanksgiving week hit. The downturn was mostly online, but I also include getting robbed at that game in Atlanta and losing a bit at Holland Casino.

Now that I've come back from that monetary drop, my total winnings are approaching all-time highs of about $20,500.

If only my bankroll were that high! Living off of poker winnings shrunk it significantly, but I'm bringing it back. I have about $5,500 in poker money, which is close to the $6,000 (300 bets) that I would want to play $10/$20 limit.

Should I feel relieved that I've gotten my money back? Because I don't. I feel good about my winnings, but I won't be happy until I'm beating $15/$30 limit on a regular basis. And for that to happen, I still need to win about $3,000 more to even play the game, and then I need to be able to beat it without dropping down.

So how do I feel about these last three months of recovery?

I mean, it was a tough climb, and honestly I think I've still been running pretty terribly at the tables. I'm making money, but the suckouts I've seen over the last couple of weeks have left my head spinning. If not for a plague of two outers on the river, I would have made a good $1,000 or $2,000 more.

But that's just the poker mindset talking. It's all bad beats and lucky draws, and nobody ever runs good.

It's like doubleas wrote in a recent post: "I have been running bad, but my bankroll is staying the same."

This comeback was the largest I've ever had to make, but it wasn't the most difficult. The worst was between July 2004 and February 2005. It started when I played $5/$10 no limit game in Biloxi, got smacked for about $750, and struggled to get my bankroll over $2,000 again. That was eight months of just about zero bankroll growth, grinding it out at .10/.25 and .25/.50 no limit.

But that passed. Down times always pass if you're a winning player. Any downturn is a drop in the water compared to the long run.

And the recovery period has been instructive. I spent January playing $5/$10 shorthanded limit, which I beat for 0.5 BB/100. That win rate really pissed me off.

Who knows what my "true" win rate is at that game? My sample size is only 10,000 hands, but I'm not going to wait around to find out. There have been a bunch of posts recently about the extremely high swings in shorthanded play -- swings that can last for several 100,000 hands and up to 1,000 big bets. No, thank you.

I don't think I have the heart to play shorthanded games, even if they are very fishy and profitable. Who cares if a game is profitable if you could be playing for months without seeing any earnings? Damn right, that's results-oriented thinking. I'm not that patient.

So in February, I switched over to $1/$2 no limit, which I liked. It's a pretty good game, and I think I'll use it as an alternate revenue source when I need a break from limit hold 'em. The games are pretty soft, but I did feel like there was a noticeable difference from $0.5/$1 no limit. The postflop play is generally better, and it's harder to trap people when you have a monster hand.

I was thinking earlier tonight that they should just rename no limit hold 'em to "Aces," because all it takes is one Ace on the flop to make everyone fold to your bet. Bluffing when an Ace falls is so easy. They all fold.

I wish I could take a break, sit back and enjoy my progess so far.

But I don't think I'll really have a serious break until I can take Phil Gordon's advice: After making your first $100,000, take a vacation.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Total Dark Side

If you really want to let the real gambler inside of you out, there's a way to do so, and it even has a positive expectation. (But lets not worry about the expected value -- the inner gambler doesn't want to hear about it.)

But it's a shady path.

Oh yes. I'm talking about blackjack sticky bonuses.

I played my first one last night using the Strategy for Sticky Casino Bonuses. It's crazy.

Here's how it works: you deposit something like $100, and get a bonus of between 200 percent and 300 percent. But there's a catch: you can never ever withdraw the bonus money, no matter how much you play.

What's the point? Well, you can use that money to gamble with and try for a big score.

It's risky. You'll probably lose. I lost on my first try.

But math says that if you do it a few times, you'll come out ahead.

And it's fun. It's really fun. It's evil.


I almost went bust on my 16th hand -- from $400 to $67 in no time.

But then I went on a rush. From that last $67 to more than $900. Unfortunately, the way you do these things is you set a goal and don't stop until you reach it or go bust. My goal was $1,100 for an $800 profit (because $300 of that money was the sticky bonus).

I never got there. I lasted 18 minutes and wagered a total of $4,573 in that time -- far more than the required $1,600 workthru. The cost to me was $100.

I can't wait to try the next one though. I feel like such a fish, but these bonuses are a pretty good deal if you can handle the swings. I'm up for it.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Batman Kicks Ass

Warning: No poker content. In fact, this is a post entirely about comic books.

It's the end of the universe! DC Comics has pushed the button on the destruction of its multiverse, which will basically reset most of their titles. This time next month, we'll have some new titles, and a few old ones, like "JLA," will be gone (for now).

I love it when this happens. It's a giant crossover involving most series, from Batman to Superman to Aquaman. I haven't bothered buying any of the individual titles, but I have been keeping up with the miniseries that tells the main story, "Infinite Crisis."

The last time DC did something like this was with the "Zero Hour" story, in which Hal Jordan (the original Green Lantern) turned evil, wiped out the Green Lantern Corp and beat up Superman (which is always fun) in a quest to revive Coast City, which was obliterated after the death of Superman in the 90s. I think it's also similar to "Crisis on Infinite Earths," but I don't recall the details.

One character that's involved is Jason Todd -- the infamous second Robin who was killed off by the fans in the 80s. Which was awesome. The fans hated him, so DC set up a 900 number where people could choose whether he would live or die. They voted for the lamest Robin to bite the dust, which he did, at the hands of the Joker.

I was pissed off to see that they brought him back. I hate it when they bring characters back. But especially Jason Todd, whose death was real, final and significant. It encouraged the "Death in the Family" series, which led to years of angst on the part of Batman after his apprentice died at the hands of his worst enemy.

Fortunately, his revival will be explained away in Batman Annual No. 25, which comes out March 8.

In the main storyline, the JLA lobotomized Dr. Light after he raped one of their friends. Batman didn't sign onto the plan, so they erased his memory. Later on, Batman (because he's really smart) caught on to the JLA's undemocratic overpowering of his mere-human memory, and he set up a satellite surveillance system to keep an eye on all the superheroes. Big mistake. It was taken over by mysterious bad guys and turned into a weapon, by creating Sentinel-like robots to target and kill all of Earth's heroes.

Woops. Batman screwed up!

Meanwhile, the rest of the universe is literally falling apart at the seams as the bad guys are trying to eliminate all realities except for one. This is comics, so that means a lot of characters' worlds would be getting the axe.

We can look forward to a few things:

1) Batman will play a key role in saving the day, because that's what he does. Where all the superheros fail, Batman steps up to the plate.

2) Superman will get beaten up. I love watching Superman lose because he's such a one-dimensional character who mostly relies on his powers for natural superiority to nearly everyone else.

3) The comic store guy told me that all of DC's comics will skip forward one year in time, and then the company will come out with 52-issue series (appropriately called "52") to explain what happened. He said there will be a new Batman, too.

4) If there is a new Batman, it will be fun to watch Bruce Wayne make a comeback. Last time, after he had his back broken by Bane more than 10 years ago, he had to redo all his training and then eventually overthrow Azreal, who had overtaken Batman's mantle. Once Bruce Wayne was healthy again, the fight was no contest.

One more note: It's been in the news recently that Batman will take on al-Qaida in an upcoming series done by Frank Miller! I love Miller's Batman -- he's so pissed off, anti-government and intimidating. He's much more of an angry vigilante than a boring do-gooder. If Batman doesn't put the hurt on Osama, then we're letting the terrorists win.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

NL Observations

What I like about no limit hold 'em is that it is a game where fish are more likely (than in limit) to be punished quickly. It only takes one wrong move to lose your stack.

Because the game puts that much weight on a small number of decisions, it's easier for me to see the differences in skill levels from .10/.25 no limit to 1/2 no limit. The smaller game was my entry point into online poker, and I think it's one of the best games on the Internet. The 1/2 game, which usually comes with a $200 buy-in, is still pretty good, but the players have more of a clue in general.

But here are some very suspect trends I've seen bad players make repeatedly:

_Limping or cold-calling with big pocket pairs, especially TT through QQ. This makes absolutely no sense. A lot of the value of these big hands lies in the fact that they tend to be favorites preflop. If you limp or cold-call with them, you are putting yourself in a difficult situation postflop, when the bigger bets are made.

Last night, I raised from middle position and had one caller. Undercards flopped, and I bet the pot and got called. On the turn, I again made a near pot-sized bet. The guy folded, saying he had QQ. I had JJ. You could argue that his mistake was folding, but from his perspective, he had no clue whether he was up against AA or KK because he never once put in a raise. That led him to make a huge mistake.

_Folding. These players fold a lot because they've learned that calling big bets -- especially on later streets -- can be very expensive. Because they fold all the time, that makes them very bluffable. I prefer continuation bets on the flop and in position. Turn bluffs also hold value, but they're more risky because it costs more to sell the bluff.

_Limping with big slick. I've seen a few winning players use this tactic to mask the strength of their hand. In my mind, though, it's usually a mistake. AK is another hand that holds a lot of its value preflop, and people frequently fold if an A or a K flops anyway, whether the pot is raised or not. Limping with these cards may avoid trouble, but it also takes away their worth.

_Fearing the raise from the blinds. I've fallen in love with raising and re-raising from the blinds preflop. It's more of a tournament move, but it works surprisingly well in these no limit games too. I'll do it with any hand ATs and up, depending on the strength of my opponents. Even if you fear that you're dominated, raising from the blinds represents so much strength that it puts the fear of God in most players.

Most of the time, they will just fold, and you'll win a decent-sized pot without having to see a flop. But even if you miss the flop, it's a great opportunity to make a bluff and watch them all fold. If they don't fold, you can rest easy, knowing that you can fold and you'll likely get paid next time.

Most of the big pots in no limit games comes through traps laid between two monster hands. But lots of the money in no limit is made in smaller increments, through sheer aggression, value betting and bluffing to build up your stack.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

No Credit

First things first:

Go check out scurvydog's new poker forum, Kickered. It's pretty damn new, but I think it has a lot of potential for strategy discussion, data sharing and general ways for us to improve our games.

We're all in this together ... until we sit at the same table.

Which brings me to the today's topic:

Mark's Fundamental Theorem of Poker: They're all fish.

I've been questioning my theorem recently, not because I think it's factually incorrect, but because it conveys an outlook that may not be +EV.

Poker shows better than most things in life that people make irrational decisions. Many times, it's because players don't know what the correct move is. Other times, it's because players know the correct move but can't bring themselves to do it. They want to see the showdown, they don't want to be bluffed, they're on tilt, etc.

Those reasons are usually justified by faulty logic. But that doesn't mean that they're senseless.

Most things happen for a reason. That reason may not necessarily be correct, but it's usually not completely irrational either.

It reminds me of my high school German teacher. He liked to talk about current events and stories of his past, and then ask the class what we thought about the people involved and what life lessons they could teach. Many times, the class' response was, "Well, the people in your story are crazy. Why would they do that?"

That drove my German teacher mad because the people weren't crazy. They had motives for everything they did.

There are plenty of non-sensical plays made every day at the poker tables. But each one of them has some kind of reason behind it. People say to themselves, "I'll check-raise the turn and fold to a re-raise." "I'll re-raise this fish no matter what cards I have." "If a suited card falls, I'll fold." "The hammer is a great hand."

I think I got a little off-topic there, but what I'm trying to say is that the perspective that everyone else is a fish could lead you to underestimate your competition. But if your competition is fishy, shouldn't you widen your playing standards, call down more, bluff less and try to get the most out of marginal hands?

Equally as dangerous as underestimating your opponents is overestimating them by folding to re-raises all the time, failing to bet the turn or river or playing weakly when you should be strong.

I don't think I'm going anywhere with this, except to say that it's hard to accurately assess exactly how good or bad your opponents are. In general, know that your opponents will make plenty of bad mistakes, but most players are also usually trying to tell you a straightforward message by their betting patterns.

The challenge of hand reading, one of the most important skills in poker, is to interpret the betting message through fishy glasses.

What are they trying to tell you? Why are they doing what they're doing? There is a reason for their action, no matter how suspect. And that will give you a clue about whether it's appropriate to raise, call or fold.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Pushing It

Band names off the top of my head:

_Waking up with Aces
_Pitchers and Catchers Report
_Fucked by the River
_Toxoplasma (Sorry to whoever I stole this from)


When I told Daniel about my plans for trying to get in a lot of hands over the next few days, he warned me that I shouldn't push it. I really want my bankroll back around where it should be before my November downturn and getting robbed at gunpoint at a game.

"I'm going to push it," I said.

I've really been thinking about whether this is a stupid plan or not. It goes to the heart of bankroll management and potential profitability.

My plan is to play $1/$2 buy-in no limit on Party until my bankroll is back to where I want it. I'm usually playing about five tables at a time, which may be foolish. I have about the bankroll to play one $200 buy-in game at a time (5 percent of a $4,000 bankroll), but not five!

I thought I had learned my lesson about bankroll. It's absolutely necessary. Right?

Here's my reasoning:

1) My bankroll is not in danger. I've gone on plenty of downswings in my poker career, but I've never once had a severe losing streak in no limit games. I've never gone on a 10 buy-in downturn, no less a 20 buy-in turn, which is what it would take to bust me right now. I can beat these games, and losing seems unlikely.

2) I'm confident in my game. I do not fear these opponents, who are in general weak and fold happy, but they'll let you know when they have a hand.

3) While losing would be painful, I'm willing to accept that risk and take responsibility for the possibility.

4) This is the fastest way I know of to build my bankroll to levels where I can play the games I want to play. I don't view this as taking a shot; I think this is more like pushing an edge.

5) The game I want to play don't intimidate me. The only reasons I don't have the bankroll to play where I want to is that I had to support myself. Even after losing some money in game play in November, I still would have had plenty to keep playing $15/$30 limit if not for living expenses.

So here's the question:

Am I really stupid? Let me know if I am.

I think I'd be happy playing .5/1 no limit, but not as happy as if I could get to where I want to be over the next month or so. I've been playing 1/2 no limit as my regular game for about two weeks now, and I'm up a few hundred. Nothing conclusive.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Pearl Harbor H.O.R.S.E and overheard conversation

I tried to take down the big cat on the block in an impromptu heads-up H.O.R.S.E tourney, but once again the cat was triumphant.

It was fun. It was such a nice day at Pearl Harbor as we waited for our tour to begin. We found a park bench overlooking the water. I tried to imagine the skies filled with more than 300 Japanese planes raining down destruction on such a peaceful area.

Daniel wrote about it better than I could, though. Check out his recap. Daniel has now won both of our heads-up matches outside of Atlanta -- first in Santiago, now in Atlanta. Good thing I got lucky in the December heads-up tourney, or else I'd begin to think that I could never beat him!

I don't have a lot to say, so I'll leave you with this $1/$2 Party Poker no limit table conversation that I found interesting enough to save:

Hitman010: your on here 8 hrs a day?
Hitman010: crazy
wagz34: almost
Hitman010: clearly this is your bread and butter
wagz34: main income yea
wagz34: do other things but this pays the bills
Hitman010: nice
Hitman010: thats my dream
Hitman010: great job
wagz34: hard to work again after making so much more money doin this
Hitman010: work when u want
Hitman010: yah no lame taxes
Hitman010: no boss
wagz34: i cant imagine working a 40 hour week
Hitman010: my friend plays for a living
Hitman010: envy the XXXX
wagz34: swing r bad sometimes but if u could deal its money in the long run
Hitman010: i lost 70$ last month haha
Hitman010: so not a good job for me
wagz34: ha
wagz34: lost 900 last night
wagz34: won most of it back tonight
Hitman010: thats rough
Hitman010: bad night
Hitman010: thats how this game is tho
wagz34: terrible
wagz34: suked out on like a champ
wagz34: then i lose a few hundred on tilt to
Hitman010: haha
Teddy_KGB_: how many tables u play wag
wagz34: thats my biggest problem
wagz34: 4 at the most
wagz34: i need a bigger screen though
wagz34: i really only like to play 2 at a time
Hitman010: who do u think makes most money at these tables?
Teddy_KGB_: some guy teddy kgb
wagz34: between who
Hitman010: just top players in general
Hitman010: i think dan veaudry and soothsayer
wagz34: always see u with a stack pavel is always winning
Hitman010: they always cleaning up
wagz34: elephant gun
Hitman010: yah he's a winner
wagz34: mortage something or other
wagz34: dr kauffmann n motorguy
wagz34: ha got me looking people up now
Hitman010: hah
wagz34: actually been alot with skrilla to hes a player
Teddy_KGB_: before i started playing recently i was playing 600 and 1000
Hitman010: some guy in forum claiming top players should make 14bb/100 at 200nl
Hitman010: why the drop to 200?
Teddy_KGB_: well i just started again and was on 400
Hitman010: 400 is so tight
Teddy_KGB_: and i lost about 12 two outers in 2 days
wagz34: dont like to play big money if im not seeing the people
Teddy_KGB_: so came here to ride out the bs
Hitman010: ahh
Hitman010: everytime i make the jump to 400..i get raped
wagz34: i won abouit 20 on ub then came over here after losing like 4
Teddy_KGB_: i own soothsayer that little pansy
wagz34: 20g
wagz34: hes another one whos always on here
Teddy_KGB_: how long did it take you to win 20k
wagz34: a few months
Hitman010: i made more at limit then nl..but its so goddamn boring i can't paly it anymore
wagz34: up 22g on here a the past few months
Hitman010: thats pretty good
wagz34: yea not trying to get rish but if i could make 5g a month ill take it
wagz34: rich
Hitman010: yah 5 G's is good..but how long will the poker fad last
Hitman010: thats why i don't quit my job and take this more seriously
Teddy_KGB_: lol
Teddy_KGB_: this place was packed even before the poker fad
Hitman010: fish can only lose so much money before they quit
wagz34: it def aint fading ne time soon
Hitman010: games getting tougher and tougher
wagz34: nah ii dont think so
wagz34: go to the casinos
wagz34: games r terrible there on the weekends n holidays
Hitman010: yah that is very true
wagz34: u could easily makes a few grand over a weekdend in a casnio
Hitman010: live play is so boring...15 hands an hour
wagz34: thats why i play the big limits live
Hitman010: what u play
wagz34: hands r more exciting

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Be The Rock

While grinding through hands of blackjack and no limit hold 'em, I've gotten this idea that the way to make the most money is just to play like a rock.

Now, I'm not saying that passive play will make you the money. But I do think that solid, consistent, predictable, disciplined play is the way to go.

In blackjack, it's a simple matter of following the play chart until you clear the workthru requirement and collect your bonus amount. For anyone skeptical of blackjack bonuses, they're worth a few hundred dollars every month. More information can be found here.

In poker, making money is mostly a matter of getting in a lot of hands as long as you're playing well. But playing well doesn't have to be some kind of elusive struggle. It just means that you try to apply your knowledge consistently and thoughtfully.

In other words: Don't get too fancy. Beware of unexplained big bets. Accept that you'll get bluffed every once in a while, but be content to know that your opponents are almost always just playing the cards they have. Don't worry about metagame principles or trying to mix up your play.

Yes, aggressive play and exceptions to the rule are the essence of poker. But I know that for me, my losing runs are worse than they should be when I get carried away with these concepts.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


This is a picture of the sunrise from the top of Haleakala Volcano on Maui. It was so nice up there, but a little bit chilly by Hawaii standards.

It's really something to see. I don't feel any deep emotions about it, except to try and appreciate the beauty of nature for a few minutes. It reminds me of the other great sunrises I've seen -- from atop Mount Fuji, at Stone Mountain, in Philmont, Arizona.

I liked this sunrise because it was right on schedule at 6:51 a.m., and the sun came up exactly where I expected it to. Sometimes, the sun rises in different parts of the sky from where the lights over the horizon first appear in the still-dark hours. The cloud cover in the Haleakala crater below gave the illusion that this was just another plateau instead of a couple of miles up on a mountain on one of the best islands on Earth.

It's good to take a break from poker and take in the sights and the moments that are much more important to real life. Even when poker's popularity begins to wane, there will still be many fresh fish in the sea.

After the sunrise, Daniel and I went to the beach and did a little snorkeling. The water is very clear, and you can get right up close to the tropical fish. If you feed them frozen peas, several of them will swarm around to get their food. It's a lot of fun. Daniel wrote about it in this post.

Now back to Honolulu! It might not be as stunning as Maui, but it's pretty damn cool.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Beeping coming from the floor. Shut up! Stupid alarm clock. Why is it dark outside? Damn, it's 5:45 a.m.

OK, where am I? Santiago? Atlanta? Montreal? Amsterdam? Vegas?

I remember now: I live in Honolulu. Sweet. God I hate mornings.

Get out of bed. Limp to the shower. Oh, there's my computer. I wonder how I did in poker last night?

Well, I know I busted two times against sets and one time when I had a set vs. a straight. That's three buy-ins. I know I didn't double up at all. But then again, I won a bunch of little pots -- I still can't believe how damn weak these no limit players are.

Take a shower, then check PokerTracker. What do I expect to find? Did I lose $400? $600? I have no idea. I know I made a little bit back at the end ...

Oh, markNet, tell me the verdict: how much money did I lose last night? I go through this routine every morning because I prefer to check on my winnings and losses after a good night's sleep. I don't want to worry about poker when I should be sleeping. If I won, I feel good about it. If I lost, well, that's in the past.

Then PokerTracker spits out a number: -$35. Woohoo! I lost $35!

My first losing day at no limit for the year out of 12 no limit sessions so far (the rest have been limit).

How did I only lose $35? There's only one answer to that question:

These wimpy no limit players just keep on folding to my continuation bets and bluff check-raises. Most of them are scared money. They probably shouldn't be playing $200 buy-in no limit games, but I don't mind. They can just keep on playing.

Monday, February 06, 2006

NL Again

Limit hold 'em is the game I've spent most of my time playing over the last 14 months, but my return to no limit poker makes me want to make that my game for a while.

No limit is simply too profitable to ignore. I would be foolish not to play no limit because there's more dead money lying around there.

No limit is the game that's popular right now, and that's where most of the fish are to be found. Additionally, the nature of the game means that you can really punish bad players with big bets and bigger pots. You can double up in a heartbeat if you play your cards right.

But limit is still my favorite form of poker. I like the thousands of little decisions you have to make in hopes that they add up to something. I like that your stack is always taking small steps forward or backward, while hopefully moving more ahead than behind.

The fact is that while I've been making money in limit for quite some time now, the pace of the bankroll growth is slower than I would like. Playing shorthanded $5/$10 games, the higher variance makes me question whether it's really worthwhile to fight such tough battles for between 1 and 2 bets per 100 hands.

Ah, the long run. In limit, while winrates and profits regress toward the mean over time, the short term is a real pain in the ass.

Is it worth it? What will make me the most money in the long run?

That's what it all comes down to. I still believe that limit poker holds more long-term earning potential, but for me to feel like it's worthwhile I need to be playing higher limits. And to play higher limits, I need to rebuild my bankroll after drawing on it for living expenses in Santiago, Chile and then in Atlanta.

The goal for now is to make the most money I can as quickly as possible. I've improved my limit game at a steady rate -- I can identify many more of my mistakes now than I could a year ago, when all I could tell myself was that I was confident in my game for whatever it was worth. Knowing how much I still don't know is a sign that I'm beginning to get a clue.

Dammit, no limit is too good of a game to neglect. It's my first game; it's the game I always return to when I need safe earnings. And these $200 buy-in games are so damn soft. Most of the time, those players will fold in large pots to a simple continuation bet or well-placed check-raise. They know just enough to be scared, and I know just enough to put the fear of God in them with a big bet as they throw their cards into the muck.

This means that I'm recentering my goals again.

My plan is to play no limit for at least the month of February with my eye on restoring my bankroll to levels where I can play $15/$30 limit. Once I get to that level, I will have to make a tough decision: Should I stick with no limit or switch back over to the limit ladder?

Friday, February 03, 2006


Even though I was in a bowling league for a couple of seasons, it wasn't because I was any good. In fact, I sucked.

One time my team got to the finals, but we skipped out because we wanted to get drunk and go camping instead. I know that's against some sort of bowler's code, but we weren't hard core.

Bowling always pissed me off because I sucked so hard and I have a hard time taking constructive criticism. Every once in a while I could have the patience to learn an idea, but I had a hard time remembering everything as I went up to the lane to throw the ball.

Here's what I was thinking: "Rolllllll the ball ... hit my mark ... keep my wrist firm ... roll it straight ... don't walk sideways ... don't get a gutter ball ... throw it hard ... but not too hard ... keep square ... take five steps ... or was that seven steps? ... I want a drink ..."

The point is that there were so many concepts that I had a hard time applying all of them at once as I approached the lane.

Poker is easier for me because you have more time and I don't have to be coordinated.

The only time pressure is that timer, and I hardly ever come close to using anywhere near my allotted time.

I'm just trying to send a message to myself:

"Hey, self. Here's a message: Poker isn't bowling. Chill out. Slow down. The fish and chips aren't going anywhere."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I can dodge bullets, baby

Nah, I can't dodge bullets. I've been getting my ass kicked over the last couple of days, actually. But it's fun to say.

I was close to having the bankroll I'd need to move up to $10/$20 6-max games, but then I hit a very quick -- but quite steep -- slide. That's OK. It's the nature of the game to have big ups and downs. Fortunately, poker is a game played in the long term, and I've been through enough hills and valleys to know that the ol' bankroll will keep moving up.

I don't really have much else to say about poker. I'm feeling good.

I get to fly over to the Big Island on Friday, which will be a lot of fun. I've been looking forward to seeing the other islands of this amazing state, and the island of Hawaii seems like it has a lot to off. I'll be on the west side of the island near Kona, so I won't get to see Hilo.

Hopefully, I'll be able to get back to Hilo in a couple of weeks to see some of the new museums that are opening. An astronomy museum opens on the 23rd, and the Bishop Museum is only a few months old.

What's cool is that the astronomy museum will show off some of the research of the Hawaii's telescopes, which are some of the most powerful in the world. They say that these telescopes -- along with the ones in Chile -- rival the Hubble telescope.

And of course, there are volcanoes. That should be awesome. I'll be sure to bring my camera.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Mixed Signals

Leaks in your game suck.

One of the worst is that I misinterpret information. Everything in poker is so damn specific, but I always try to turn it into a generality. I think that may be a reason why my game tended to devolve the first few times I went through "Small Stakes Hold 'em": I remembered the concept, but not the situation.

I'm getting a lot better though!

Although I slipped up again recently. I was reading through The Best of the Gerber Baby on 2+2, and one of the examples is about what to do on the river if you bet and get raised.

The advice from shillx is to either three bet or fold. Of course, I took that to the extreme and lost a little more money than I should have in a couple of hands.

It isn't that his advice is wrong; it's that his advice only applies to highly contested pots. His quote: "Bet-calling the river when both you and the villain have shown considerable strength is a HUGE mistake."


In other news ... markNet lives! I'm so glad my dual processor badass computer that I built after winning my first and only Vegas tourney is up and running again. This time, it's better than ever. I have a new 19 inch flat screen monitor, a fast (600 kb/s) cable connection and a new motherboard. I'm set.

I played poker on the rejuvenated markNet tonight, and it was fantastic. This computer is so much fun.

Good luck at the tables.