Thursday, June 29, 2006

Poor play

For some reason, I'm playing shitty poker. I can't seem to concentrate and my reads are off.

Bad beats aren't the problem. I am.

Fortunately, unlike my Atlanta Braves, I don't have to play when I know I'm not playing well. I can just bide my time and hop in when I'm ready. I'm sure it won't be long.

In the meantime, my friend Owen's brother has started a company that publishes an e-mag called The Blog Reader. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Baseball and the Palomar

I'm sitting in the Los Angeles airport after a great, fun, exciting weekend of baseball, cards and friends.

After hitting up the Hustler when I got in on Saturday, I met up with JoeSpeaker , metsfan, A.J., Owen and Erin to go to the Dodgers-Pirates game. It was awesome, and the home team won. A.J. kicks ass -- he can talk your head off, and I loved listening to him.

I liked Dodger Stadium a lot. It was built in 1962, but it still looks nice and has a fun atmosphere. I had heard about the legendary beach balls that bounce around at the games. There was also a blow-up doll being hit around in the stands, which cracked me up. Metsfan is already talking about the World Series. The Mets are a great team, but it might be a little early to be thinking about late October.

I also saw the San Diego Padres lose to the Seattle Mariners on Sunday, and then the Anaheim Angels beat the Colorado Rockies in a thriller on Monday. Petco Park in San Diego is beautiful -- I've been to 13 MLB stadiums so far, and Petco is in my top four.

After the Padres game, I figured I couldn't pass up the opportunity to hit up one of the San Diego card rooms. So I hopped on the Internet and found that the Palomar was only four miles away from downtown, toward Escondito.

It's unlike any card room I've ever been to. The Palomar is a storefront on the side of El Cajon Boulevard -- a rare Sunday night light amid fast food restaurants and sleeping businesses. I guess when poker is legalized, there's no reason for the glitz of Vegas. All you need is card tables and dealers for people who want to waste away a few hours and maybe get lucky.

There were about six tables inside with four games running. There were two 1/2 no limit tables with a $100 buy-in, one 5/10 no limit table and one 3/6 limit game. Some guys in the corner were playing Pai Gow. The rake was $5. The people seemed a little down on their luck but generally friendly. I sat in the 1/2 no limit game. I didn't want to push my luck, especially after a long day where I had already had several drinks.

The game was friendly and fun. One old guy came over from the limit table and started playing like a maniac. Maybe that's how he thought no limit was supposed to be played, but he busted out in about 10 minutes. Another guy was talking about his spinal tap. One rounder wearing headphones liked to slow play every single hand, which made him easy to read. A Vietnamese woman to my right was smiling and having a good time.

I only picked up one decent hand, A9s, which I raised from middle position. I usually wouldn't play A9s from MP in an online game, but I felt I had a strong read on this table.

I got a few callers, and two 9s fell on the flop to give me trips. A shorter stack pushed all in after I made a smallish bet, and he turned over J9 for a lower three of the kind. I cashed out shortly afterward for a $19 profit. Good enough for me.

I can't wait for the Vegas trip in two weeks!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Aloha from the Hustler!

I got in to Cali this morning and had a couple of hours to kill, so I knew I had to hit a card room while I had the chance.

I sat in at a 2/5 no limit game at the Hustler, which I don't like quite as much as the Commerce, but it's still decent. The game was filled with loose-passive players who limped into a lot of pots and avoided confrontations -- my favorite kind of table.

I won an early hand with Aces, then lost a pot when I bet with pocket 88 on a raggy looking board.

Later, I called a short stack who pushed all in with an A on the board when I had AK, but unfortunately he hit his Q on the turn for two pair, KQ. Then I got close to even by bluffing with a suited hammer.

This guy who looked like an exhausted biker was getting killed directly to my right. He kept whining about how his Aces and Kings never held up, but I didn't once see him raise during the whole session.

In one hand, I limped in a multiway pot with ATs. I picked up two of my suit on a paired flop, called a min bet, and then hit an Ace on the turn. The river gave me the A-high flush, and I made some money from a guy who made his straight and another guy who called my large bet but didn't show what he had.

The whiny biker had KK again.

I was up $207 after two hours, so that was a good start to my yearly baseball trip!

I'll see a Dodgers game today, a Padres game tomorrow and an Angels game on Monday with a couple of friends and select poker bloggers. I'll be sure to post photos later on!

Friday, June 23, 2006


I'm so thankful for all the fish.

The poker boom is still going on, and who knows when it will end. I'm damn lucky that the Internet and poker came together at a time in my life where I'm able to take full advantage of it.

I haven't been playing online poker long -- only a little over two years -- but the games are still almost as good as I thought they were when I first started. It's easy to find donkeys. Fish litter the tables. There's dead money everywhere.

I can pull up a random 2/4 no limit table and have a better-than-even-chance that the first seat I sit in, I'll have some gamblers to my right who are dying to share their stacks.

I'm not a great player. But I'm convinced that a tight, aggressive player who has the ability to lay down hands when he knows he's beat can make a good earn. Rakeback and an endless stream of poker and blackjack bonuses keep padding the bankroll to the tune of hundreds of dollars a month.

I know this won't last forever. Hell, Congress could vote to make Internet poker illegal, and I don't know what we'd do then. I guess we'd be shit out of luck.

I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts. Maybe it will last a long time.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Fish must be nocturnal ...

Because these tables just get better the later I stay up. It's about 11:30 p.m. here, which means it's 5:30 a.m. on the East Coast. Maybe all these people still awake are the ones trying to get even or sleep-deprived.

I made one of the worst moves I can remember last night. It was terrible. I won't go into the gory details because I'm too embarrassed, but let's just say that I pushed all in with a low pocket pair on the flop against a set. Woops.

I thought at the time that I had good reason for what I was doing because I had extensive notes on my opponent. I made a read that this was the kind of situation he was bluffing at repeatedly, and I decided my pocket pair had a better than even chance of winning the hand.

Of course, this play led me to question myself and my seemingly awful play. Where did I go wrong?

Obviously, my read was wrong.

But I don't think I was incorrect in trusting my analysis of the hand. Unfortunately, that analysis was flawed.

I made a snap judgment based on my read without fully considering that my read was based on a small sample size. I didn't account enough for the chance that my read was incorrect.

I relied on what I thought my opponent didn't have rather than what I thought was the range of hands he could have had. Bush league. Whatever.

Ach. I'm ready to sleep, but if there were ever a time for toothpicks to prop my eyes open and keep me at the table, this is it. I'll give these tables a few more minutes...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Blackjack Disco

About a year ago, before I started playing any blackjack, it looked like the bonus scene was dying. All the major poker sites were cutting back on their monthly bonuses except for Absolute Poker, which I've always found to be a chore to play at.

Little did I know that the blackjack sites were giving away lots of free money.

And they still are today.

This month, I've played bonuses at 32red, Linesmaker, Superbook, Betsson, Planetluck, Aceclub, Intercasino, William Hill and Littlewoods. And that's just the start to all the bonuses that are currently available.

One benefit I have now is that my bankroll is larger than it was when I started playing blackjack bonuses last fall, making it more comfortable for me to make larger wagers and more quickly clear the workthru requirement of each bonus. Betting more money on each turn of the card raises your variance for sure, but it doesn't decrease the real value of the bonus at all.

Anyways, I always recommend the blackjack bonuses. Some of these sites offer bonuses on a monthly basis, but most of them are one-time sign-up bonuses.

Some notes:

_Daniel mentioned to me that he heard the IGM-Pay bonuses (20 percent up to $100 with a 3X deposit+bonus workthru) would stop being offered at the end of this month. These bonuses apply to Starluck, Planetluck and Aceclub casinos. I had to talk to customer support each time to get them to credit me with the IGM-Pay bonus, but they didn't hesitate to do so.

_Daniel also found a cool blackjack site that lists strategy charts for each casino. It's called It also has a lot of other useful info.

_Scurvy deserves credit for getting me into blackjack bonuses to start with. He has published "A Beginner's Guide to Casino Bonuses" as well as a more recent list of cashable blackjack bonuses. One thing to note is that some of these bonuses have high workthru requirements that severely cut into their EV. I like the bonuses that have a higher upside, and I probably won't bother with some of the sites that require wagers totalling $14,000 for a $100 bonus (for example).

Friday, June 16, 2006

Harrington, Vol. 1

I know I'm probably the last person in the world to read "Harrington on Hold 'em, Vol. 1," but I'll weigh in anyway.

I liked the style it was written in and the practical advice given. The hand examples are the most valuable part of the book. They're well-illustrated and easy to understand, and they convey general principles in a game where everything seems to depend on the situation.

A few of the details struck me as odd.

I don't know what to make of his occasional probe bets. Harrington suggests tossing out bets of about 1/3 of the pot every once in a while as bluffs to try and pick up the pot with minimal expense. Perhaps this move is more effective in live tournaments, but it seems to me that underbets in online tournaments are rarely successful. I prefer to bet 1/2 of the pot size so that I don't appear so weak and have a greater chance at success.

I also might quibble (only a little) with some of Harrington's play on the flop when he has a big draw. In one example, Harrington flops a straight draw and a flush draw, but he's unsure how clean his outs are. He suggests calling the flop and seeing what the turn brings.

I almost always play my monster draws very hard on the flop unless I have a good reason not to. I feel like I give up value if I play my drawing hands too passively, and I like to get all in when I have such a potentially strong hand. That gives me two streets to hit one of my 15 outs by the end, which is usually good enough for at around 50 percent equity. But of course that's entirely situational.

Overall, I liked Vol. 1 a lot. It's hard to find good books on no limit strategy, and this one is the best I've read. I don't think it will make me a tournament master, but it will help my overall no limit game.

Vol. 2 is up next.


I'm sitting here, a little tipsy after a few drinks, playing a 2/4 no limit game because I'm an idiot who couldn't find an acceptable sit-n-go despite my state of mind.

And I'm telling myself, "I'll just double up once and then sit out. Just once is all I need."

So when the 58 percent maniac raises to $20 preflop and I have 55 one off the button, what do I do? I call and intend to raise the flop on a bluff unless it's a very scary flop.

The flop comes 7 high ... with a 5 on it! I hit big. I called the $40 flop bet.

Then on the turn, some weird rag comes, the donkey bets, I raise, and he goes all in. I call his turned straight, which he made with 76o.

I start yelling, "Pair the board! Pair the board! Pair the board!"

Then the river brings that perfect card: the 6 of clubs to pair the board, give me a boat and crush his straight for a $500 profit. Hell yeah.

That's just how I've been rolling.

I want to remember this -- what it's like to be making good money when I'm playing well and getting lucky when I happen to be behind. (Fortunately, I thought of most of what I was going to write before I went to the bar.)

The main thing is that I'm taking more notes than I ever have before, and I'm listening to my instincts because they feel right. I'm not deluding myself when I feel like I can read my opponents' hands; I'm right a high percentage of the time, and I'm not getting sucked out on either.

Here's what I'm doing differently:

_As mentioned, I'm taking more notes. I'm trying to put a note on someone every hand if possible.

_I'm keeping track of all the action from start to finish.

_I'm being patient.

_I'm only playing two or three tables at a time.

_I'm thinking as I'm playing and applying my reads properly.

I know good runs never last forever, but I'm going to live it up while it does.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


For the most part, I don't fear sets. I don't worry about them; I don't want to think about them. If someone has a set, then so be it. I'll make more money overall by playing strongly against the possible hands I can see than the imagined hands I can't.

There's only one problem with my reasoning -- it's a bit naive. I think it's a good strategy in many games, especially when playing against unpredictable players that like to run a lot of weird bluffs or nonsensical all-ins.

But to entirely discount the possibility that your opponent holds a set undermines your ability to read his hand. You can't put your opponent on an accurate hand range unless you consider the chance that he does hold that perfect pocket pair to bust your Aces in the hole.

The probability that anyone holds a set in any given hand is relatively small. That said, I believe it's possible to anticipate when you're beat based on betting patterns and reads. An obvious example is when you hold AK with an A on the flop vs. a very passive player who suddenly raises and re-raises. He might have connected his low pocket pair with the rags on the flop.

There is more danger in overestimating the chance that you're up against a set than underestimating it.

But ignoring the feasibility of a set entirely is thoughtless, -EV poker.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I arrived in Vegas with the crew last July, having recently returned to the States and ready to gamble.

I sat in a no limit game at the Flamingo. I was probably a bit too eager to get some hands in. It was a $300 buy-in game, and I had come to play.

After almost a round, I raised prelop with AQ. It was folded around to the big blind -- A calm, kind of talkative guy who I had pegged as a gambler. He called.

The flop came Axx. No draws.

He checked to me, I bet, he put in a check-raise. I thought for about three seconds before pushing all in.

"I have to call," he said, turning over AK.

The turn brought a King to add insult to injury, and I was out before I had barely started.

The guy reached his hand out and shook mine.

"Nice hand," he said. "Just a little too aggressive."

I wasn't sure if he was mocking me or not, but I was getting the hell out of there. I hate the Flamingo. It's like playing at some ratty third-rate online site with crappy software.

I was pretty tilty, so there was only one thing to do -- go to the 2/4 limit game at the Sahara and gamble it up!

I was thinking about this hand because I felt so fishy about it. I didn't think it through, and it should have been obvious that many players will cold-call AK in the big blind when facing an UTG raise. I assumed at the time that he would have re-raised.

I've improved my game tremendously since then, and I'm struck by how many little things there are to consider. But each of them can be taken one at a time, and most decisions can be made with plenty of time to spare.

My game is getting better because I'm thinking harder about what I'm doing before I act. I'm not mindlessly 10-tabling while waiting for the nuts. I'm not ramming AK all-in unless I have a good reason to do so. I'm not playing AA like a kamikaze pilot going for bust.

If I had it to do over again, there's no way I would make the same mistake of running my AQ into AK like that. It's a slow process, but little by little, the percentage points of EV are adding up.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Chicken or feathers?

Isn't this always the way it seems to go?

The moment I'm ready to start bitching about every river suckout or invisible set, I suddenly start to run good again. Either I should start bitching sooner, or I need to not complain at all.

I try to be patient, but the beats still get to me! Whatever, whatever.

I started out today losing $200 on blackjack bonuses after a brutal run last night on Party Poker and World Sports Exchange. It was going to be another beginning of another losing run.

But then things started to turn around. I didn't change anything about my game; I wasn't in a better mindset or concentrating harder. Luck just decided it was my turn to win today.

I flopped a boat and let a guy catch a runner-runner flush. Double. I had AA vs. KK. Double. I hit a set. Double.

In all, I doubled up about five times today -- nearly entirely erasing the futility of the previous two weeks.

If there's one sin I'm more guilty of than any other in poker, it's that I have no faith that bad runs will end, or that I haven't completely forgotten how to play the game. I always worry that I'll turn out like Steve Blass, a baseball player made famous because he inexplicably lost all ability to throw a strike. Nobody knows exactly what went wrong -- he just lost it.

I haven't forgotten how to play. I'm still learning, but I know what I'm doing out there.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Surfing before work

Mama never told me there were so many fish at 2/4 no limit.

I never would have thought there are so many players who don't know what they're doing. In general, it seems looser and more aggressive than many lower limit games, but those are the only real differences. There are plenty of donks.

I only moved up a couple of days ago, after I decided that I really should try to play higher no limit games. It's just a natural. Despite my obsession with limit over the last year and a half, no limit has always been my best game. I don't know what's wrong with me -- I should have done this a lot sooner.

To start, I hit a bad run where KK ran into a five-outer on the river, and fortunately it got checked through. Then I lost with a boat vs. quads, and I missed out on a $1,100 pot.

But it was easy to get some of it back tonight. I can only think of one hand where I hit, but I was still able to value bet enough and fold when I was beat to make a little change.

Several other things probably contribute to my feeling that this game is fishy and that I'm playing well. I've been pretty strict with my game selection, I'm holding the tables down to two or three at a time, and I'm taking a shit ton of notes.

It really does help. Multitabling is all well and good, but there's no way I can play my best game 10-tabling. That's not to say it isn't profitable; it's just not as profitable as moving up in limits.

I've had a hell of a week.

Got drunk Friday night.

Hiked around Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island all day Saturday and Sunday.

Sat around Monday.

Went for a hike at Maunawili Falls on Tuesday.

Surfed before work today.

Hawaii rocks. Pictures coming up soon!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Bonuses Rule

I love the B2B sites.

My 600 euro TopRankedPoker bonus was just deposited into my account. With that bonus and a few others for another 100 euro, my total bonus earned from TopRankedPoker is $903.

And that's not including other profits from gameplay.

Hell yeah it was worth it, even if it took a little while to clear.

Friday, June 02, 2006

If it weren't for my bad play, I'd win every time

Thanks to scurvy and grinder for their comments on my limit post. There are plenty of reasons to bet when behind, but I think they're exaggerated and quickly devolve into Fancy Play Syndrome.

I find the string of posts on luck in poker to be pretty interesting. There's no doubt that poker has a ton of luck involved in the short run, and that skilled players always win in the long run.

The difficulty is that we don't know how long the long run lasts except in retrospect. Riding out the bad times while still playing well is one of the main things that separates long-term winners from career losers.

I beat Matt twice in StarCraft today, but he had a big handicap in that he was playing Terran, which is his worst race and my best race. If he's Zerg, I don't stand a chance.

I'm heading off to Volcanos National Park this weekend on the Big Island. It sounds like it'll be awesome. And then I'll have fresh pictures, in addition to the shots from Diamondhead that I haven't posted yet.

Good luck at the tables!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Slowly but surely

Must ... clear ... B2B bonuses ... 700 points to go on Best Poker ...