Saturday, January 28, 2006


I've paid for some semi-expensive lessons over the last several days that can easily be summarized with the poker credo "You can't bluff a moron off a pot." Not one single lesson has been particularly pricey -- $12 here, $6 there -- but they've helped turn several winning sessions into small losing ones and have given me ample reason to reconsider a few things.

I knew I would need to raise my comfort level with bluffing when I switched from limit to no-limit games. It helped a little that my limit play was confined almost exclusively to 6-max tables, where you can actually bluff successfully on occasion, even at $1/2 limits. But bluffs in those game were far cheaper and were still employed sparingly, usually at the river when I knew there was no other way to win the pot.

No-limit, I realized, is a different ballgame. While those chips obviously represent real money, I needed to become accustomed to the concept that they should also be viewed as ammunition and when you fire enough rounds -- even when you are outflanked -- you can sometimes convince an opponent to retreat.

I've seen it work. And recently, I've seen it fail miserably. I know: That's poker. You bluff, get re-raised and head for the hills. But lately, I've realized I need to tone it down a bit. Bluffing, at least online and at these low limits, needs to be applied more judiciously. Morons will call big bets with third pairs and weak kickers. Morons will call down with A-Q and no help on the board. Morons will call. Period. While obviously this can (and should be) profitable in the long run, I'm thinking I need to turn down the volume a little.

The most sickening example of a 1-800-MORONIC call, however, came Friday night in a .25/.50 game held at the inestimable J.C.'s Casa de Poker. Fortunately, I was not the victim. Knish, a player I know only for his Woody Allenesque-reputation, got pocket aces and decided to raise all-in after a rainbow flop. (I wasn't at the table and don't know all the salient details, so I'm unsure if he was protecting his hand or trying to extract maximum value. I suspect it was the former.)

A newbie at the game decided to call that decent-sized all-in with nothing -- a suited K-10 with one of his suits on the flop. The turn and river, of course, delivered a runner-runner flush and Knish was last seen walking down deserted streets of downtown Cleveland, mumbling to himself and tearing out hair in large patches.

Newbie, of course, was delighted with himself and believed he had just made the greatest play in the history of poker. Perhaps there's some humor to be found there, but I guess I'm too much of a curmudgeon to see it.

We were running two tables at the time. Cold-carded and stuck for nearly 3 buy-ins, I decided to move over to the empty seat to Newbie's left. Good move, sir. Got some hands, got some calls from him and began to finally stack up a little. (He did win a small pot off me, however, by calling a river bet with nothing except A-Qo. I can't believe he had a read on me, but you never know.)

Thanks to a double-up from my buddy, Twitch, and a few other profitable plays, I did manage to walk out of J.C.'s at 3:30 a.m. bleary eyed and even for the night. Given the way most of the night had gone, it almost smelled like victory.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Yes, it has finally happened. I made a final table. And no, it wasn't a sit-and-go. Okay, there were only 110 people entered, the buy-in was only $5.50 and I finished ninth for a paltry $6.88 profit. But it was still a final table, dammit.

I played solidly throughout, barring my bustout hand, and received the requisite amount of luck needed to go deep. With about 40 left, I got all my chips in with A-K after a ragged flop, got called by pocket queens and spiked a king on the river. Then, with maybe 11 or 12 players left, I raised UTG with pocket queens, got put all-in by a slightly bigger stack's A-K, saw an ace appear on the flop, followed by a very sexy lady on the turn.

The bustout hand involved more queens and my only (wouldn't ya know it) bad play of the tournament. I'm sitting in the BB with Q-10 suited. Big stack raises to 3,000 UTG, big-stacked small blind calls the other 2,500 and I don't think very long before calling 2K more, leaving me 9,500 behind. Rainbow flop has a queen and some low cards. I bet half my stack, UTG reraises big, SB folds and I ... call with my remaining chips, figuring I was beat. I was. He's got A-Q and I'm done.

None of the mistakes made on the hand were hideous, but were fatal nonetheless. I needed a (much) better hand to call the prefop raise. My M is 4.5 without that call, hardly great, but I'm not yet on life support. (The 500/1,000/125 level had just started.) Any thoughts about pot odds before the flop were just plain wrong. At that point in the tournament, given my smallish stack, my only thoughts should be implied odds and doubling up.

Nothing wrong with leading post-flop. I've got top pair. But when UTG raised me and I surmised that he had the goods while I held a soggy bologna sandwich, I should have given it up and preserved my remaining 4,500 chips. Successful comebacks have been staged with fewer chips than that. Let's chalk it up as another poker lesson learned and, for what it's barely worth, a final table made.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


After sitting down at a $1 NL 6-max table on Stars tonight, I watched an absolute donk go on a gigantic rush, taking a $25 stack to more than $230 in a span of a half-hour.

The Donk did win some fat pots with good cards, including runner-runner kings to make quads and a flopped set 5s. But I also watched him win a $150-plus pot by calling a $5 raise with 6-7o and hitting two pair on a 5-6-7 flop. The raiser's hand? The fourth-best starters in poker, baby: 5-7o. I guess Mr. 5-7 did deserve to be punished for having committed first-degree felonious cuteness. But The Donk had managed to grate me, nonetheless.

After doubling up my $50 buy-in early in the session with a flopped straight against a different chucklehead, I suddenly found myself down $17, thanks to a semi-expensive hand against The Donk (my raised K-Qo vs. his A-Jo -- a queen flopped, an ace spiked on the turn), several pricey flush draws that missed and top-pair flops that I surrendered to scary, coordinated boards and big river bets. Teetering somewhere between tilt and a zen-like state of calm (big range, I know), I reloaded for another $50 in search of some chewy doublicious. I did manage to climb back into the black, mostly at the expense of The Donk, who apparently never saw a hand not worth playing or a bet not worth calling.

Then, this hand occurred:

PokerStars No-Limit Hold'em, $1.00 BB (6 handed)
UTG ($153.75)
The Donk ($188.30)
Hero ($118)
Button ($101.35)
SB ($89.75)
BB ($126.95)

UTG raises to $3
The Donk calls $3
Hero raises to $10
3 folds
UTG folds
The Donk calls $7.

Flop: Th, 3h, 7s
The Donk checks, Hero bets $26, The Donk calls $26.
Turn: Ad
The Donk checks, Hero bets $82 (All-In), The Donk calls $82.
River: Kd
Final Pot: $240.50

So ... what's everyone have here?
The Donk shows Jh-6h
Hero shows Ah-As

Yep, my man called a $3 preflop raise, a $7 re-raise and $108 worth of bets with J-6 soooooted. Nice play, sir. I graciously thanked him and soon took my leave, happy that I had reloaded my dwindling bankroll and elated that I'd won the single biggest pot of my nascent poker career.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Damn the torpedoes

The only thing sicker than playing online poker is watching online poker. Yet last night, in one of those onanistic moments of virtual poker sex, I tuned in to the final table action for the big Sunday tournament on Stars. Figured if I can't make a final table, I can at least observe one. Or, in the words of Chauncey Gardner, "I just like to watch."

Found it compelling because of the play of a guy with the screen name JKDanmark, who I can only assume is Danish, given the name and his hometown of Bjrkerenhimerstadtenfrogen. Or something like that.

What made the Danish Destroyer so fascinating was his off-the-hook, balls-to-the-wall aggression. He started the final table (working from memory here), third or fourth in chips, but soon acquired a slight chip lead with the most fearless play I've ever seen. It seemed as if he pushed every third hand or so, consequences and cash bedamned. Rarely did anyone look him up, and when they did, they often paid -- even when he was holding less than stellar cards. He doubled up some smaller stacks here and there, but ran that table like a big mack-daddy playa. Nothing slowed this guy down. Lose a chunk of chips? Push. Projectile vomit some smelly smorgasbord? Keep pushing, baby.

By the time the reached 6, the inevitable deal-making balloons began to float. There seemed to be some consensus to let my Google uncle, Poker Stars moderator Lee "Poker" Jones, figure it out save one -- Cheese Danish. He sat silently, unwilling (or unable) to join the negotiations. There were more entreaties for a save when they got down to four and then three, but the Deaf and Dumb Dane refused to participate. When they reached heads-up after some Swedish meatball went down in flames, JK briefly lost the chip lead by a bit when his top pair(?) lost to a straight. He soon rectified that when he called a quarter of his stack (1.2-million chips) on an A-2-x flop and then called the all-in bet on the turned 3, crippling his opponent (holding A-2) with 5-4. It ended a few hands later, netting JK a cool $162K.

For me, watching that final-table action was time well spent. You have to be willing to die in this game if you want to live. And, as JK showed me, with a little luck and a ton of aggression, attempted suicide is indeed painless.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Blue streak

Finally monied in an online multi-table tourney this morning/afternoon, finishing 21st in a 958-person $5.50 on Stars. For those of you keeping score at home, it breaks an 0-for-18 MTT moneyless streak. Yet, in Woody Allen-esque fashion, I'm not all that happy about it. Twenty-first is fine. And I think I played my B+ game. (My voyage into the semi-deep got started during the first hour when I cracked limped aces with the mighty 6-5 sooooted on my BB.)

Stars' 20% payout for the event and the puny buy-in meant minimal profits. That's fine. It's not about the money, right now. It's about making final tables. It's about top 3 finishes. Accomplish that, and the money takes care of itself.

Part of my angst is derived, once again, from a couple of classic wimp-outs that fly in the face of my alleged newfound aggression. At 25K and blinds 1,000/2,000/100, I folded A-Jo UTG, fearing what the hyper-aggressive big stack might do. I would have won handily. Earlier, I folded pocket 4s from EP to a 3,200-chip min-raise. He got a caller, a 4 flopped and the river queen would have given me a boat against his flush. Those were two hands that would have chipped me up nicely, and there's abso-fucking-lutely no reason why I shouldn't have played them.

Got knocked out with slick unsuited. With blinds at 2,000/4,000/150 and me sitting on 35K, my high-water mark, I raise to 12K and the chip leader calls. I push my remaining 22K on a ragged flop and he calls with queens. No cavalry arrives to save me and I'm done.

I know the mantra on slick: "You've got to win with it, you've got to beat it." I've been making decisions on a case-by-case basis with that hand when I fail to hit a pair or a respectable draw on the flop. Up against big or bigger stacks and first to act, I've been frequently checking, hoping to see a free/cheap turn. It's worked successfully. Against smallish stacks, I always push. Today, I pushed with a less-than-pot-sized bet and it didn't work out. No problem.

That aside, I'm not going to claim seats at final tables until I learn to make the correct decision each and every time. It's the only way I'll ever pull me and my game up to that next level.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Chop sooooooey

My tournament traumas continue, including a finish 10 spots from the money in a 1,226-person $11 on Stars. Once again, I could have wimped below the bubble, but didn't. Pocket 9s in early position did me in this time. I raised 3x the big blind and a big stack calls. Flop comes K-Q-x. Big stack checks, I bet, he check-raises, I fold. I don't see any decent cards for a couple of orbits and I push A-5 with death-ray blinds looming. There are 40 callers and A-5 loses. Shocking.

I'm not sure what I should be doing here. There was a time when I routinely cowered in the bubble bunker when I got close to the money with small, but guaranteed-to-cash stacks, narrowing the range of hands I'd play to aces, kings and lucky limps from the blinds. Every once in awhile, I'd even manage to get respectably deep into a tournament post-bubble. At the very least, I'd cover my buy-in.

But the new (and improved?) me has decided to not tighten up and to keep playing as aggressively at or near the bubble in the hope of stealing blinds, stacking up and making final tables. Admirable? Yes. Successful? Ummm ... no yet.

Not sure what the experts have to say about this, but I'm guessing I need to find a happy medium between the old and new styles. I think it's mostly a matter of just playing smarter, knowing that you can't reach final tables if you donk off your chips. At the very least I've found the enemy ... and it is me. (Side note: I have managed to win the last two SNGs I've entered, which has provided some consolation and has helped to bolster my failing confidence.)

Played a $20 tournament with the Poker Crazies last night, figuring I'd smoke a good cigar, drink a couple of Great Lakes Dortmunders and kibitz with my fellow asylum dwellers. (Some of the best microbrew in the land is produced by Great Lakes Brewery here in Cleveland. "It's in the water.")

And wouldn't you know, I played goot. Stayed patient, got some cards, made good reads and generally played my "A" game. (Side note: Good read, Jason, folding A-Q to my raise on the A-9-x flop.) There are 26 starters and I get heads up with Brian Wilson, whose name isn't Brian Wilson, but everyone calls him that just the same. I've got a 2.5-1 chip lead and he quickly proposes a deal that would give him an extra $20. I reject, hoping to end it in a hurry.

The blinds are 2,000/4,000 with what I now realize were 104,000 total chips in play. I push a couple of times with some so-so hands that are above the Q-7 median and take his blinds. We spar a bit, seeing few flops. He finally calls my K-10 push with A-8 and hits his ace. Then I try to get cute with a 3x BB raise with Q-6 off (blinds at 3,000/6,000). Brian Wilson re-raises all in, which to my surprise, leaves me with only a couple thousand behind if I lose. I fold (he shows K-J) and it's now Brian Wilson with nearly a 2-1 chip lead. Blinds hit 4,000/8,000 and he proposes a 50-50 chop. I wait one hand and take the deal.

Should I have played it out? Should I have taken the first deal (or a second, slightly less favorable one)? I agonized over this afterward, wondering if I had mishandled the dealmaking or had taken the wimp way out by not playing to the end. The Always Pious and Abstemious Monsignor, who was sweating me, probably disagrees. But, in the sober light of day, I think I played it fine. My biggest mistake was not getting an accurate chip count at the start of heads-up play and keeping a running total throughout, a must given the small M factors at work.

The final deal was a good one for me, given the chip situation, the shifting momentum and Brian Wilson's improved tournament play. And, considering the way I've been running lately, I wasn't in the mood to absorb another last-minute loss. So we will book this one for now, and hope that even a shallow victory will set us back on the right course.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?

Last night, my head spinning from my 180 misfortunes and a long way from sleep, I pondered what to do with the rest of my life? Begin the Great American Novel? Broker peace in the Mideast? Stick my head in the oven? Too lazy to do any of those things, I did what any disreputable low-limit junkie would do, jumped into a mean-ass .04-.08 stud hi-lo game.

That's right baby, I was willing to risk my bankroll (or at least $4 of it) in pursuit of some mindless fun. Stats showed that in 45 minutes of play, I never failed to see fourth street and rarely passed up the opportunity to see what fifth street would bring. And you know what? I crushed that game for nearly a $3 profit. I believe I might be the best .04-.08 stud hi-lo player in the world, so don't mess with me.

A few hands into the action, an observer popped in and made this request: "I only need .10 to play." Now, I've seen plenty of people begging for poker money before, but never at that low a limit and certainly never for that amount. Thus, I had to ask, "Are you serious?"

He assured me that he was. Normally, I would have told him to piss off and be done with it, but like Ray Kinsella says in Field of Dreams when he stops to pick up the young Moonlight Graham, "I could really use some karma right now."

"Fine," I told that beggardly soul, "$1 is coming your way." In the amount of time it takes billions to move through the international banking system, I fed this man's poker jones with a great big buck. The thought occurred to me that this 10-cent solicitation could be a complete goof. Wouldn't be the first time I've been snookered. But he did thank me effusively and even sweated me for awhile, watching me scoop a life-changing $1.26 pot with quad 7s.

All of this (including the quad 7s) pleased me at a time when solace was in short supply. And, who knows. Maybe I've kick-started the poor dude's poker career. Maybe he'll rise from the lowly depths of a penniless poker urchin to the heights of a major tournament winner

And, who knows. Maybe someday he'll pay me back my dollar. Somehow, though, I kinda doubt it.

Monday, January 16, 2006

No mas

Entered two more 180s tonight, same gruesome results. (Figured I'd foreshadow this and allow you to bail before I pour pints of bad karma all over you. For the rest of you voyeurs who enjoy watching train wrecks, "Cops," and "Ice Dancing With the Stars," here goes.)

Chip up to just over 5,000 in the first one. With the blinds at 100/200/25, I get A-10 on the SB and raise after everyone folds around. The big blind calls. Flop comes Q-J-x. We both check. A king appears on the turn. I bet out he puts me all-in and I insta-call. SB has ... A-10. Not long after I run queens into kings to finish 41st. I suspected something bad when he re-raised me but I pushed just the same and that was that.

Didn't wait long to enter the second one. Floated along for a while and entered the second hour with just under 2,500 chips. Doubled up two hands in a row with pocket 8s and aces against the same dude to climb to over 10K. Told myself I'd play cautiously but not scared. Under the gun, I get pocket 7s with blinds at 100/200/25 and limp. There's a raiser two seats to my left and I call the other 600, ready to give it up on the flop if my 7 doesn't come. Flop comes 10-6-9. I check and the raiser checks behind. The 7 appears on the turn. I bet 1,000, he calls. The other 6 comes on the river, giving me the boat. I bet another 1,200 expecting him to fold. He pops me for another 2K. I ponder this surprising turn of events. The straight is obvious. Does he have pocket 8s? But the little man in my head starts screaming: "He's got pocket 10s!" and I just call. The little freakin' midget is wrong, of course. He's got pocket 9s and I'm down to 5K. A blow, but hardly fatal.

I win some blinds, give up some blinds and then and get K-Q in the big blind. I see the flop for free, which comes 10-Q-Q. I bet out and the big stack to my immediate right calls. Another 10 on the turn and I'm looking good. I bet out again, he puts me all-in and I call. He has Q-9. No king on the river and it's another freakin' split. Not long after, I get A-Q UTG and limp. Yep, I limped. Wimpy, scared play? No comment. There are a couple more limpers, including the blinds. Flop comes Q-7-3. I bet out 2,000, leaving me not much more behind. Big-stacked limper pushes, everybody folds and I call out of desperation, fearing a set. He's slow-playing kings. No help on the turn or river and I'm out in 27th.

This is getting stupid. Don't feel like I'm playing that badly. Not playing timidly, putting the A-Q limp aside. I'm trying to win these fucking things, not just settle for a cash. But even when I collect a decent stack, I have this weird sense of prophetic doom that I manage to fulfill. What is going on here? Is it some kind of blogging curse?

Given this abject condition I find myself in, I know of only one solution: Keep playing and hope the Poker Gods eventually grow tired of kicking the living shit out of me. The tide, for pity's sake, has got to turn eventually.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Omaha Stakes

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Believing I kinda know how to play PL Omaha (high), I've played 200-300 hands of $25 PL on Stars over the last week and at one point managed to win $100 or so at the game. Nothing like success to buoy one's confidence, eh? These low-level games on Stars are mostly passive affairs. Everyone's willing to limp for a quarter and pots are raised preflop less than half the time. Yours truly is more than willing to limp along with the rest of the lemmings and isn't doing much PF raising, either.

I've read how poker is a counter-intuitive game. One's desire (curiousity) to see the next card is hard-wired while the game demands that you dump your hand the vast majority of times. On one of last season's WSOP broadcasts, Phil Hellmuth can be heard bragging about how no one else in the world would have (correctly) laid down the hand he had just released. While there is a growing body of opinion that Mr. Hellmuth is the biggest donk this side of (fill in the blank), that gross over-overstatement helps drive home a point. In a game where margins are woefully thin, the correct decision far more often than not is to fold, preserve your chips/cash, and wait for a better spot.

After my last few less-than-successful Omaha sessions, I must learn to be less ... optimistic that I'm only a card away from a pretty-good hand. It's cost me a bunch of money. Sure, there were some bad runner-runner beats in the mix. But the rule of thumb for Omaha with all of its possible hand combination appears to be: If you think they might have it, chances are they do. If you get re-raised while holding the king-high flush on the river, chances are good he completed his flush with the ace. Starting to lurk in the 2+2 Forums for Omaha advice, but still have much to learn.

On a semi-related note, my MTT spiral downward continues. I'm 0 for my last 12, including five-straight Stars 180s. Last night, managed to finish 21st -- three off the money. Got nothing to play for the last 45 minutes and ran out of time. This morning's experience, however, leaves me babbling incoherently. Stayed patient. Doubled up early then saw my stack halved by a bad play with A-Q. Got nothing for a while and then managed with some big pocket pairs and a few steals to get myself to just under 10,000 with 28 or 29 left. Looking good at that point.

I try to steal with Q-9 suited on the button with blinds at 200/400/25. Small-stacked big blind has been sitting out hoping to luck into the money. Small blind has around 13,000 chips and calls. The flop comes 7s Ac Qd. He bets 800 and I call. Turn is the Ad. He checks. I have no idea where I'm at and make a mindless 1,600-chip bet. He calls. Turn is the 10c. He bets 2,000 and I don't know what else to do but fold -- I can't believe I'm not beat at that point. I'm left with T5,276.

Second break soon begins. I'm 21/27. A few hands into that third hour, I get A-Ko and raise to 1,800. The formerly sleeping blind, who has gotten back into the action by winning a decent-sized pot with a lucky donk play, calls. He has me slightly outchipped. The flop comes low cards. I check and so does he. The turn is a king. All-righty then. I bet 1,200, attempting to appear weak and he comes over the top. Insta-call. He has K-J. I'm a 12 million-to-1 favorite and anticipating with great glee raking in an 11,000-chip pot. The jack, of course, spikes on the river and I'm done in once again.

Sonuvabitch that hurts. Sharp-metal-spike-through-the-eye hurts. Misplayed the hand? Maybe. A pot-sized continuation bet post-flop would have made me pot committed with a drawing hand. I realize now I probably would have pushed him off had I done just that. And, if I don't play the Q-9 hand so stupidly, I at least have chips left.

I apologize. I've broken one of the Golden Blogger Rules by telling a Bad Beat Story. It's my first, and for the sake of my sanity, hopefully my last.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Back in the saddle

Decided to attend a local tournament tonight in the hope of washing away the bad taste of last night's debacle. A member of our poker meetup group whom I don't really know held the game in his mini-mansion in the 'burbs. Nice setup with food/beer and 40 players at $20 per. Doubled up early against Slacksmonster (his self-applied nickname) with pocket queens. He raised, I re-raised, he went all-in and I called. Didn't think he had kings or aces, although I wasn't entirely sure. Nope. He's got jacks. Nice. Except a jack hits the turn after an A-K-x flop. Not so nice. But out pops a 10 on the river -- way nice -- and I'm the beneficiary of a good old-fashioned re-suckout.

That's pretty much it for me. Given the 15-minute rounds and relatively small starting stacks, these tournaments are, for the most part, card-dependent luckfests. I have neither cards nor luck and finish 15th or 16th or whatever.

Got home, still ready for some poker and entered another 180 on Stars. Ran my stack up and down like the EKG of a man suffering a minor heart attack. Down to 750, up to 2,300. Down to 900, up to 2,800 and back down to 1,200 at the first break. I fork over the blinds and then push with just over 1,000 chips from EP with K-Qo. I know, not exactly the nuts. Loosey-goosey, late-position donk with a little over 5,000 chips wakes up and calls with a monster: A-2o. His ace comes on the turn and I'm toast, out in 71st place. Not sure who made the more donkish play, him or me. Given the result, I guess it was me.

My all-too-accurate spreadsheet tells me that's nine tournaments in a row without a cash. I could have easily broken that streak last night, but I'm trying to put that unfortunate episode behind me. I'm sure in a month or a year or maybe a decade or two, I will have completely forgotten that, in the words of Robert DiVicenzo, "I'm such a stupid."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Warts and all

This is my lightly edited, nearly extemperaneous account of my night under some misaligned (Poker) Stars:

Entered my first 180 on Stars ($22 buy-in). Chipped up early without any bingo-bango starters. Limped with deuces at 25/50 then called 150 from the raiser. Flop comes a bunch of little hearts. He bets 300. Weak. I make it 1000, he folds. Damn, I'm good.

I call a smallish all-in with A-J suited, hit my flush on the river and get to 4,500. Lose 1,000 after raising UTG with K-Qo. Get to see a flop from the BB with 2-3o. Flop comes 6-5-K rainbow. Similarly sized stack bets 200, I call. A delicious 4 comes on the turn; he bets 200, I raise another 500 and he calls. I bet 1,000 on the river 10, he comes over the top, I insta-call and double up nicely. He has A-5. Brilliant!

Seventh of 81 remaining players at the first break with 6,814 chips. First hand, I get to see a flop out of the BB with 6-7o. Flop comes 3s, 2h, 5s. I check. Another similarly sized stack bets 150 and I call. Another freakin' 4 on the turn! I bet 900, he raises to 1,800, I push and he calls ... with slick suited. Yeah, baby. Grab another 1,200 the next hand with A-J sooooted. Sonuvabitch, I'm the chip leader with 14,000, nearly 5,000 ahead of 2nd place.

Now it's decision time. Been down with the flu for almost a week, dragging my ass to work. Today, I finally feel almost human. Earlier treated myself by firing up a vodka, some ice and some big fat olives. Haven't had a drink since New Year's Eve. One has given me a pleasant buzz, but geez it went down quick. What to do, what to do ... okay, one more.

I lose 2,000 to the guy to my immediate left. I raise from BB with A-9, he calls. I make a pot-sized continuation bet on a no-help, king-high flop. He calls. I check and fold meekly to his turn bet. Soon after, I go over the top in a big way against an all-in of 1,600 with my A-K of hearts. Isolation time. Except for some small pairs, it's my best starting hand of the night. But wait, there's another all-in call. He's got A-Qo. First pusher has A-J of diamonds. A-J hits his flush on the turn and I break even on the hand.

Here's a plot point. Guy limps for 200 and I raise to 800 with pocket 8s. Late-position small stack goes all in for 1,700. Limper re-raises and I call another 1,818. (Too symmetrical too fold, right?) Flop comes A-K-10 rainbow. I fumble with the slider before I put limper in for his last 2,200. He calls -- with pocket 9s. WTF? No snowman to save me and I'm down to 8,000. Does limper fold if I'm not so clumsy? On Stars, who knows.

Now I got a serious, rosy glow. It's ABC poker time. People are stacking up and I'm treading water with the worst garbage this side of Freshkills. I'm like one of those airline pilots whose been jockeying 727s for years and thinks he can handle that bad boy in his sleep -- or with a few highballs under his belt. That is, until he climbs behind the controls. Oh, boy. Glad no one at the gate smelled olive juice on my breath.

Dude to my right goes on a big rush and takes the chip lead. By the second break I'm 14th with 9,838 chips. Par is 10,800. I can ante into the money easily, but that's the coward's way out, right? Final table or bust, baby!

Into the third hour, the stink of my starters has not dissipated. Yet I laydown A-J suited to a raise from Mr. Chips, prompting waves of self-revulsion. Check e-mail and find a missive from Matt at The Poker Chronicles. I begin typing my reply, switch back to the table and ... shit. Accidentally call an all-in to my immediate right with 7-6o. Someone shoot me please. No miracle against the donk's A-9o occurs. Au revoir 7,000 chips. I'm left with 630 and am out two hands later on my blind. Twentieth place. Bubble plus one.

I'm laughing as I type this. I really do find it funny. And, as soon as I'm done chuckling to myself and get this posted, I'm headed to the john to puke some big fat green olives. But at least I'll be wretching with a smile on my face.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Confessional Record

"Madame/Mister Chairman, I ask permission to revise and extend my remarks."

Not-so-gentle readers (if you're out there somewhere ... anywhere?), I ask that you provide me that courtesy. As my thought-swollen brain hit the pillow last night, a thought occurred to me: My just-published post crowing about my improved NL play and all the little strategies I've been employing might just sound a little ... uninformed. I realized that someone who might actually read this blog and might actually know how to play poker just might conclude I'm a hopeless donk who knows nothing about the game.

But then I fell asleep content with the knowledge that it's okay to sound stupid. Really. This blog, like my poker game, is a work in progress and these posts should represent a snapshot of where my head is at at a particular moment in time. It's my hope that when archaeologists dig up my laptop 1,000 years from now, they'll decipher my digital hieroglyphics and say, "Ah, that's why the asshole decided to limp with pocket jacks from early position." Then, they'll no doubt shake their heads and laugh and say, "Geez, what a fish this guy must have been," before attempting to steal whatever personal information I might have stored on my hard drive.

I did admit to a friend, co-worker and fellow poker enthusiast today how much I'm enjoying this little exercise in blogdom. For what seems to be the first time in my life, I'm looking forward to writing. A very good thing, indeed.

And now, a word from our poker-content station: I did something last night that I cannot remember having done before -- I put a guy on tilt. The guy just flat-out bugged me. I'd limp with marginal holdings along with the other 75 players acting before me in our 50-cent 6-max game because I had pot odds, for God's sake. And this butthead, on the button, blinds, wherever, would min-raise, forcing all 300 of us to call the additional 50 cents because we now really had pot odds. Each time it happened -- and it happened often -- the flop would hit me with 3rd pair or not at all, he'd bet 50 cents or a buck and I'd roll over like some Vichy swine functionary before the jackbooted heels of his weak-tight plays. It began to feel like death by a thousand cuts.

Tired and cranky, instead of heading to bed with my meager profit, I finally decided to retaliate. Whenever I got heads-up this clown, I started coming over the top, bluffing with bupkus and forcing him to lay down his hands. And each time I showed it to him. That's right. I took those smelly-been-in-the-gym-locker-for-the-last-three-months pieces of crap and rubbed them in his face. I could only imagine what might have been going through his pea-sized brain by the third time he'd been turned into a 50-cent NL ho. His stack, which had miraculously reached the max buy-in mark, dwindled as he began calling sizable bets and raises from elsewhere and getting picked off as if he were Stephen Hawking trying to take a lead at first base. A wondrous sight to behold. Unfortunately, none of that money tilted my way. In fact, I later had to lay down a hand after a big pot-sized bet to his $25 all-in. Poker Tracker informs me that I managed to lose $9 to this clown during the session. Oh, well. It was worth the price of admission. By the time he skulked off into the gloomy night, his once proud stack had dissipated to a mere couple of bucks and change. That'll teach you, chucklehead.

Now, from events around the poker world tonight: I decided to take a shot at the Big Time -- a $33 tournament on Stars. (My hands trembled in fear and awe as I clicked the registration button.)

I know it's only 20+ bucks more, but it played way different than the PS $5.50s and $11s. Much tighter, much more aggressive. Nearly doubled my starting stack early when I straightened on the turn and then bobbed aimlessly in the Card Dead Sea. On the button with A-7, the blinds 100-200 and only 1,100 chips left, I doubled up when I called a slightly bigger stack's brilliant 9-7o all-in and got the rest of his chips with Kournikova a few hands later. After two revolutions, I followed four limpers with an A-10 limp on the button. The blinds complete/check, every swingin' Richard checks a ragged flop, and a sexy looking ace appears on the turn. A big-stacked limper min bets, I push my last $2,222 (aw, the symmetry) and he calls with A-J. Asshole. Limping with A-J. Should be shot. No 10 on the river and I'm toast, 130th out of 598. Think I played ... okay. Certainly wasn't intimidated. I might have tried to be the aggressor in a couple of spots later on, but the big stacks were calling consistently and hitting, so I decided to stay patient and hope for some cards. The one I got, unfortunately, did me in. I hate when that happens.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Kick ... save

Burned out after logging over 20,000 hands of $1/2 6-max on Party, I quit playing limit poker online early last year and started playing PL, NL, Omaha and more tournaments on that wretched site before quitting the online game almost completely in the spring. Limit had become a grind. I did okay at limit -- 3BB/100 -- but lacked confidence and bankroll, thanks to vacation cashouts -- to take a shot at $5/10 6-max, the next logical step. I had played a fair amount of $2/4 full-ring games before I went to $1/2 6-max and some $3/6 before and after, but the schooling of fishes in those no fold-em games was too frustrating and, in the end, slightly unprofitable. I discovered you can run through a couple hundred bucks pretty quickly playing $3/6. So can a couple of spins on the buzzed tilt-a-whirl. (Vodka and poker -- a lethal combination.)

With winter's gloom descending on the North Coast, I decided to stick $50 of live-game winnings into Stars for shits and giggles. Figured that would last me for a few weeks while playing micro-limit PL 08, NL and $3 NL tournaments. Those limits failed to sustain my interest for very long. So I decided to take a shot at $.50/$1 6-max limit. (I know, that sounds pathetic, but I wasn't in the mood to spend any more money on online poker.) My 6-max chops were rusty, but fortunately the play was so bad that I found myself making money. That lasted for a few sessions and figured I'd try $1/2. Back in a rhythm, I had good results there, too. But after a dozen sessions, the limit malaise returned. Making money didn't even help.

With few pot-limit games to choose from on Stars, I figured I'd play some 6-max NL. A little $.25/.50 here, a little $.50/$1 there. It's early, with just under 1,500 hands logged, but I'm having a blast and running good. As I mentioned in my inaugural post, there are some pretty big holes in my NL game. But, at those limits, I'm not too bad. And I've begun to purge the weak-tight crap out of my system. If anything, I'm too loose-aggressive right now. But that has got to be preferable to my former wimpy self. I'm pounding pots, making big continuation bets even when the flop fails me and calling smallish bets far more often that in the past. I'm picking good spots to bluff, taking advantage of position and stack size.

Table selection has helped. I'm avoiding tables with big stacks of 2-3x the maximum buy-in. Granted, you have to play against good players to improve, but as I learn the game myself, I figure I'm better off butting heads for now with the Little Sisters of the Poor before I line up against Notre Dame. I recently read in someone's blog how players who make short buy-ins will only stick their money in when they have the goods. That's not quite true at the limits I'm playing. I've been amazed at some of the hands people will push with.

After running hot for about 10 sessions, the inevitable cool-down occurred. In one particular session, went up early, got stuck for a bunch and brought it back to a less painful loss after playing far longer than I thought I should have. I've gone into immediate tailspins during my last two sessions. But instead of bailing, I decided to stay at the controls and hope I could right that puppy before splattering ungraciously into the cold, hard Earth. Rebuy! At times I felt that sickening heat rising to the top of my skull, frustrated and pissed at having made bad calls and even more when I thought someone might have played me out of a pot. You know the feeling: Big bet or re-raise and the heart says, "I think my hand is good," while the head is screaming, "Hey, idiot, this hand's going to end like a Ned Beatty menage a trois at the Cahulawassee River."

But during both of those sessions, I managed to stave off those melon-headed sodomites with some deep cleansing breaths and my newfound mantra: "Stay patient. Stay patient." And, holy Hare Krishna, it worked. I stayed aggressive, kept pounding pots after raises whether I hit or not, made good calls and brought both sessions back into the black. Not in a big way, but definitely unstuck. No need for the NTSB and FAA to come searching for my poker Black Box to unravel the mystery of why I suck.

These saves are not going to happen all the time, I know. Gonna lose, gotta lose. Pokers Gods have programmed the game that way. (It's fixed, I tell ya, it's fixed!). But I think I might have learned something. If a poker player can absorb and retain something useful from poker sessions at least half the time, there's hope. Even for me.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Tighty whitey

Just busted out of a 1,300-person $11 on Stars less than 30 minutes into the proceedings. Blind vs. blind. Me 10-8 of hearts. Check-check after a flop with two hearts. The 5th heart comes on the turn, I bet weak, hoping for a raise, he obliges, I push all-in, he calls with the Q-5 of hearts. Bye-bye $3,000 in chips. Bye-bye final-table dreams. Whadyagonnado.

Tournaments are unquestionably what I enjoy most about poker. Love the strategy, stack management, etc. I'm sure a lot of people feel the same way. Six-max is a grind, albeit a potentially profitable one. NL ring games are slightly more fun, but they can become tedious after a couple hours as well. Both are obviously far more EV+ than trying to wade through the teeming masses entering these small-time MTTs. Like most low-limit junkies, I dream of someday having the chutzpah and bankroll to play in the big events. (No, not the WSOP/WPT circuit. I'm talking the nightly $160s and Sunday $215s.)

I've played enough MTTs to know I'm not very good -- yet. I've made three final tables, a $20 shootout on Party where I finished second for about $600, a fourth-place finish in a $20 MTT on Party good for $1,000 and seventh place in a small $10 on Full Tilt for around $100. Not much to show for my efforts. And those okay results, I suspect, were more about luck than skillful play.

The problem? Same one that 98 percent of the idiots who buy in to these tournaments have: weak-tight play. I'm wearing tighty-whiteys when I need to be wearing boxers. (I'm headed to Wal-Fart tomorrow to buy me a half-dozen pairs.) It's something I'm trying to correct, and while it's still early, I feel I'm making progress. Even in tonight's bustout, I done good. Called a $100 raise with pocket 6s in late position, watched the original raiser bet just two-thirds of the pot on the queen-high flop and came over the top for another $600. Bingo. He thought for a second and laid it down. I thought he might be weak and I pounced. In the past, I probably would have folded after having failed to make a set.

Had great results employing this new-and-improved style this afternoon in a 1,700-person $5.50 on Stars. I chipped up steadily with only a few monster hands, calling bets post flop where I once routinely folded, mixing it up and creating a nice table image of controlled aggression. Had chips and room to operate.

By the time everyone made the money (I love Poker Stars, but hate the payout structure for these low-limit MTTs. They paid 297 freaking places -- 17 percent of the field.) I had around 15,000 chips, almost double par.

I get A-9o from UTG+1 and say to myself, I hate this hand from this position, and fold. Big stack to my left raises 3x the BB and gets a call. Flop, of course, comes A-9-x. Raiser bets, caller goes all in and takes down a 15,000-chip pot with A-5o (raiser had pocket queens). WTF is wrong with me? Granted A-9o is not a powerhouse hand, but the blinds were only 400/800 at the time. I could have easily afforded to call the extra 1,800 had I limped. Or, better yet, what if I had been the raiser? Queens would certainly have called and, apparently, so would have A-5o. Instead, I go tighty-whitey and lose a chance at a big pot that might have propelled me toward a final table and maybe a nice payday. (First place just over $1,500.) After all the hard work I had put in, at a critical moment of the tournament, I reverted to my previous poker self. Sheeeeit.

That hand rattled me, but I vowed to labor on. Lost a big chunk with pocket kings against a smaller stack's aces, got blinded down and finally busted in 116th place on a crappy beat, turning (WOOHOO!) a $5.97 profit for three hours of work. I'd have been better off working in a Taiwanese sweatshop making sweaters for Kathy Lee Gifford at $2 an hour.

That's it. I'm leaving. I know there's a 24-hour Wal-Fart out there somewhere. There are a half-dozen plaid size 36 boxers just calling my name.

(Side note: I watched the final 10 minutes of heads-up play in that $5.50. One guy, a good player who has won a bunch of money on Stars according to PokerDB, had his opponent outchipped 2,000,000 to 140,000. Big stack decides to limp with pocket aces and lets the little guy see a flop with 5-7o. Flop brings an open-ender for the little guy and he hits his straight on the river. Five minutes later, big stack is history. Memo to self: NEVER EVER LIMP WITH POCKET ACES. Poker Gods will eviscerate you every time you do.)

The sublime and ridiculous

One of the joys of growing up in a small, hick town was my willingness to leave it in a hurry and and never look back. No longing, no saccharine sentimentality, no yearning for halcyon days forever lost. Nine days after someone -- I have no recollection who -- handed me my diploma on the scruffy turf of the high school football field, I eagerly flew to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to begin basic training and life as I know it today.

The Army served its purpose well, exposing me to places, people and things non-existant in that close-minded Middle American backwater of my childhood. As undisciplined as my life had been to that point, the structure of military life suited me surprisingly well. I adapted and thrived, not as some kind of super soldier -- no one would ever have stuck my face on a recruiting poster -- but because the rules I had to follow were imposed by choice. That it was my decision to join the Army made those less appetizing aspects of military life seem palatable.

It helped that my job was not a grunt who toted guns and lived in tents, but as a finance and accounting specialist who worked in offices and had weekends off. My ability to do the work and to manipulate a system ripe for exploitation made life even easier. Fort Hood, Texas, and its miles of desolate scrub brush became my first duty station. Deborah, a second lieutenant whom a 19-year-old enlisted man literally had no legal right to date, became my first love. Her return to California after leaving the Army became my first, but hardly last, heartbreak.

One of the goals of my four-year enlistment was to travel overseas. While in Texas, I made regular calls to the branch in Washington that handled such matters asking to be sent to South Korea. Friends had regaled me with stories of the good life there for young, dumb Americans who cared not a whit that several hundred thousand angry North Koreans stood poised to cross the Yalu River, ready to spill good ol' red-white-and-blue American blood. Impatience in her voice, the woman in Washington told me no you can't go to Korea for the umpteenth time but asked if I'd be interested in another posting -- to Turkey. I pondered this possibility for at least two seconds before telling her, "Sure," barely aware of Turkey's location on the globe, much less what life there might entail.

My sponsor, the guy I was replacing, sent me some information about cultural do's and don'ts, but it just so happened that a virtual travelogue had just been released in the theaters -- "Midnight Express." Stoned on seedy Mexican weed, a couple of buddies and I went to see it. Afterward, they looked at me as if I had lost my mind, but having grown up where I did, Turkish prison looked like Shangri-La. (Okay, a bit of exaggeration.)

So in March of 1979, I left Texas and headed to New York for a few days before flying to Izmir, a city of about a half-million people on the Aegean Sea. New York City did not disappoint. I went to my first strip club after attending my first Broadway show and got ripped off by a cocktail waitress whose job it was to sit and talk with lonely men and sell splits of extravagantly priced champagne. But this woman, barely 21 years old, took pity on a poor rube and took me around Manhattan for several days before I gypsy cabbed to JFK for my flight across the Atlantic.

I arrived on my birthday, a stranger in a strange land, ripe for adventure. My job in Izmir would be the lone caretaker of several hundred soldiers' pay, from the three-star general at the NATO headquarters to the soldiers huddled on mountain tops, intercepting Soviet communications. Our offices took up one floor of an office building and I shared a comfortable apartment with a couple of co-workers in a stylish neighborhood. The Turkish government devalued the lira weeks after I arrived, essentially tripling the buying power of my $1,000 monthly salary. Despite the cautionary tale told in "Midnight Express," hashish was plentiful and cheap -- Charlie, the toothless office shoeshine man and errands runner, would deliver it to surreptitiously to our desks in the office in exchange for Marlboro 100s, which cost us only $2 a carton at the PX. We paid our maids with bottles of Johnny Walker Red, sold old Penthouses at five times the cover price and black marketed Levis mailed from home for $50 a pair. Turkey proved profitable to a poor enlisted man.

My job required me to take periodic trips to Germany, where our finance records were kept. On one of those flights home, I sat next to Semra, an attractive woman from Istanbul who had been studying accounting in Germany. We struck up a conversation that led to meetings in Izmir and Istanbul and, not long after, romance. We spent time exploring the wonders of Istanbul and soaking up sun at charming seaside resort towns along the coast. Discussions of marriage ensued -- her wealthy parents not altogether approving -- but even shallow soul-searching made me realize it was neither the time nor the place.

Turkey proved a study in contrasts. Kemal Ataturk, the George Washington of modern-day Turkey, demanded through his iron will that the country Westernize during the early part of the 20th Century. He changed the written word from Arabic to the Roman alphabet, banned the wearing of the fez and reached out to the West, despite an abiding mistrust of its motives. Thus, Turkey was a mix of cosmopolitan Western dress and tastes and the old Turkish customs and fashions. The gap between rich and poor ran deep. The hills surrounding Izmir were dotted with small, poorly heated and equipped but remarkably clean homes.

It was -- and still is, although for largely different reasons -- a country in search of an identity. Factions of the extreme political right and left battled each other and the government during my 15 months there, committing terrorist acts, including killing American military personnel, and forcing the generals to once again declare martial law and take control in an orderly and bloodless coup. Turkey's American minders apparently approved.

I found the Turkish people to be friendly, resilient and resourceful. I was especially struck by how parents doted on and adored their children. I can't recall anyone ever yelling at or striking a child.

But the government lacked the resources (and possibly) the will to take care of its most wretched cases. Ragged beggars, some lame, some blind, some clutching bedraggled and sad-eyed children, were common fixtures on the streets of Izmir. Islamic culture expects its adherents to care for the unfortunate, but it defies the imagination how the paltry alms these mendicants gathered were enough to sustain them.

My most lasting memory of my time in Izmir was a warm and cloudless Saturday morning. I had walked from my apartment to a section of the city where most of the military facilities were located. As I approached the post office, I was taken aback by the site of something that appeared barely human. A man, maybe in his late teens, maybe a little older, stood in the middle of the street. His clothes were torn and soiled; blackened toes peeked from his shoes; his hair matted and filthy. Drooling and smelling of shit, his eyes black and vacant, Bedlam could not have produced a more desperate case. Any sense of pity toward this God-forsaken soul was overwhelmed by revulsion at the sight of him standing there pulling on his flaccid penis through the opening in his pants. Even the Turks on the street that morning looked on aghast.

Then, in a moment that remains as deeply etched in my conscience as nearly any event in my life, this disgusting cretin tipped his head back, opened his mouth and began to sing. Not some foreign-sounding gibberish, but deep, mournful American blues in a voice hauntingly beautiful and expressive. It seemed impossible. How could the most foul human being ever to take breath produce such wondrous sounds? I have no idea what song he sang, but those notes, rich, clear and sonorous, soared over the still streetscape for maybe half a minute in heart-rendering splendor and then faded to silence. Finished, he turned and ambled down the street. No one spoke. People exchanged perplexed looks and resumed their lives, uncertain what to make of such weirdness.

I had already lost much of the religion pounded into me during my youth. That tableau did not help. What kind of cruel joke had God played on this man? To give him a brain of mush and a voice of the angels? Years later, I still struggle to understand. Years later, I wonder what happened to that voice.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Structured environment

After another 5-6 hours of playing on Full Contact, I need to soften some of my criticisms of the site. It's ... okay, once you get used to navigating it. It has some quirks, like the fact you have to click "Sit Out" to add chips to your stack at a table and then sit back in. Still don't like the web-based hand histories, but I'm guessing that Poker Tracker will eventually add FCP. The Great Brains at FCP ought to consider creating a detailed FAQ like other sites that covers all the things I FREAKIN' WANT TO KNOW. One cool accessory, though, is that during tournament all-ins, the percentages pop up on the screen. It doesn't do you any good to know your 5-7o is a 5-1 'dog against those pocket aces, but it's still kind of cool.

Another quirk is FCP's tournament structure. Home sick with the flu, I piled on the covers and fired up the laptop. Lost a buy-in at .50 NL thanks to another flea-bitten draw monkey and entered an $11 freezeout. There were 182 starters. But instead of paying 18 places, they paid ust 10. FCP sets payouts based on increments of 100 players. Thus a 299-player tournament pays as many players as a 201-player MTT. FCP also structures its payouts to be top heavy. First place in the tournament paid $546 -- 30 percent of the purse, which is higher than other sites. Hard to argue with that. Tournament purses should be weighted more heavily toward the top finishers.

It would have been nice, however, if they had paid 18. After nearly an hour of folding and shivering, I went on a nice rush over the next half-hour and got myself into the top 5 with about 60 players left. Went mostly card dead again and failed to get action from a min-raised pair of red aces from early position. Down to the last two tables, I found a pair of jacks with just over 9,000 in chips. With blinds at 400-800, I pushed with pocket jacks after a 2,800-chip raise by a bigger stack and got called by the gutless bastard's pocket queens. The nerve. No jack appeared and I was out in 16th place, sick and penniless.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Home game implosion

I've been playing in a regular home game since early last summer I found through some friends at work. The two guys who graciously agreed to hold these weekly games (one on Wednesdays, the other on Friday nights) are members of a Poker Meetup group here in beautiful Cleveland. The format was agreeable to my bankroll: a $20 freezeout followed by a wild and wooly $1/2 NL cash game that has resulted in a surprising number of gambooooling fools walking out with $1,000 or more for the night. I was typically a game-time decision for that bacchanal of chip slinging. My risk-averse nature and mediocre NL skills made me, for the most part, fish bait. Between my tournament cashes and the few times I made money in the ring game, I probably broke even for my dozen-plus poker nights playing with this group.

Regardless of the monetary rewards or lack thereof, I enjoyed myself immensely. It was a great opportunity to pull off the digital umbilical cord that connects me to the online game and mix it up live. I appreciated the diversity gathered around the table. The games featured a virtual U.N. of creeds, colors, abilities and backgrounds. There were reckless college kids scraping together buy-ins and retired executives sitting on fat bankrolls. The only real requirement for attendance was skin thick enough to withstand the inevitable barbs questioning one's manhood, poker skills and sanity.

Many of the players had become fast friends, organizing trips to Vegas and other gambling venues for extended bouts of poker and inebriation. I felt a twinge of jealousy for my inability to make any of these trips, but enjoyed them vicariously through their well-told tales of drunken debauchery. All-in-all, you could not have asked more from a home game, save for Lindsay Lohan dealing cards to you topless.

And, at least for now, it's no more. John and Terry have put their games on hiatus. Sure, they were a little burnt out by the weekly home invasions of this poker-playing, beer-swilling horde. But the primary reason was the discovery of cheats who, I suspect, were working as a team. All the aces in one of the decks at Terry's were discovered to have been marked. A deck at John's had odd creases. WTF? Most of the long-timers have their suspicions about who the culprits might be. It would be reckless to name names. But in the event any of you guilty a**wipes know how to use a computer, much less read, let me say this: Bad karma awaits you. You opted for the short money and may have won. But you'll forever be marked, not as a clever rounder, but as an avaricious piece of crap whose only real victory is ruining a very good thing. Don't mess with the Poker Gods, dickheads. They have countless ways of exacting their revenge.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Timing is everything

Played my first Wil Wheaton tournament on Stars tonight. Deck hit me early -- aces twice, kings once, slick a couple of times. Got as much action as a male stripper at a Rosie O'Donnell sleepover. Nada. Zilch. Zip. After that, cards went cold. Reduced to about 8 BBs and blinds at 75/150, went over the top on a preflop raise with pocket 8s. Original rRaiser had the nerve to be holding pocket queens and I was toast, finishing 23 of 45.

It did give me the opportunity to chat a little with other bloggers and pimp this site a little. Whether it will result in a reader or two, remains to be seen. Perhaps the bubble has burst on poker blogging (and poker, for that matter). I remain clueless about how to efficiently gather readers.

As a side note, in the interest of some bonus whoring, I took $100 of my hard-earned Stars earnings and tossed it into Full Contact Poker, which was offering an extra 10% for Neteller deposits. Results not so hot. Not all that impressed with the site, either. Web-based hand histories suck; not supported by Poker Tracker; can't reload (or can't figure out how to) while you have money at the table. Take those and other varied complaints and you have an interface that's inferior to even Party's. FCP has a cool, new-age look, but that's about it. It appears they decided on features that are different for different's sake, not because they're utilitarian. Did they test-drive their software with real poker players before they went live? I'm hard-pressed to believe they did.

Intermittently watched Danny Boy, FCP's No. 1 ho, duke it out with Dream Clown, which is supposedly a syndicate of young Internet pros, heads up at a $500/1000 limit table. Negreanu had been trashing the kid(s) in his blog after some big sessions. That night he went from almost $80K up to nearly $75K down. Nice to see.

My poker fortunes were not any better. Donked off most of my anemic buy-in over a 5-6 hour period, thanks to trees full of draw monkeys at $1/2 5-max and couple of unsuccessful gamboooools at pot limit. Bonus accumulated at what appeared to be a decent rate, although I couldn't find anything on the site that explained what formula they use. I'll blow through what's left of my bankroll tonight and be quit of FCP. I'll stick with Poker Stars for now.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Why Party Poker sucks

As if you don't already know. Sure, there's tons of money to be made there. Some of us have done that. (Maybe not tons, but enough to bankroll a couple Vegas trips and other vacations.) I recently switched over to PokerStars and have been impressed with the fishiness on that site and it's superior interface. It was never my intention to give up completely on Party, but that changed today with the arrival of an e-mail from the Great Brains that run that outfit, which said, in part, that my account had been inactive for 30 days and:

The 7209 Party Points in your account expired at 23:59 hrs on 01-JAN-06.

That would be fine, except for one minor problem: Those same Great Brains sent me an e-mail on 12/23 that said those points would expire at 23:59 on JANUARY 2ND, not JANUARY 1ST. It had been my intention to reload a small amount and play a little PP tonight to preserve those points for my inevitable return to that site on a more frequent basis. Not now, baby, no how, no way. Am I being a little peevish? Perhaps. But it's my God-given right as a poker player to say, "Screw You," Party Poker and your piss-poor customer service. A check of my Poker Tracker stats shows I've paid a sickening amount of rake to those idiots, especially considering the low-limits I've played. And that doesn't count all the juice from MTTs, SNGs and hands where I was too lazy to use PT.

There are enough other sites out there to feed my Poker Jones without having to kowtow to the greed monsters at PP.